April 7, 2021 – Chatham, Ontario
The fish- and seafood-processing sector is a key contributor to our economy and food system, and one that has been hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19. The Government of Canada is supporting processors in this region to ensure their future viability.
Today, Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, announced a total FedDev Ontario investment of nearly $1.5 million through Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) to support four companies in the Chatham-Kent region, the world’s largest freshwater commercial fishing port and one of Ontario’s key fish- and seafood-processing regions.
With funding support, these four processors will be able to cover fixed operating expenses, including COVID-19 safety measures, utilities, insurance and employee wages. They will be able to purchase personal protective equipment required for employees, and retrofit shared workspaces to comply with social distancing measures. Additionally, they will be able to focus on retaining their skilled labour force and attracting new talent to their hardworking teams.
A&A Marine Foods, a family-owned freshwater fishing and processing business that specializes in the processing, packing and cold storage of freshwater fish for wholesale and retail sales in Canada and the United States, is receiving $500,000 in support through RRRF. When the pandemic hit, demand from the food service industry significantly decreased, forcing the company to temporarily close its operations and pivot to grow its presence in Canada. A&A Marine Foods employs more than 30 full-time, skilled employees in Blenheim.
Great Lakes Food Company, a harvester and processor of freshwater rainbow smelt from Lake Erie, is receiving $362,000 in support through RRRF. As a result of COVID-19, the company is experiencing a decrease in demand from its largest clients, including buffets, bars and restaurants in the United States and Japan, leading to a decline in sales and an increase in direct costs. Great Lakes Food Company employs 38 skilled employees in Chatham.
John O’s Foods Inc., a fish processor and wholesaler of fresh and frozen freshwater fish, is receiving $195,000 in support through RRRF. As the second largest producer of lake fish in Ontario, serving both United States and Canadian markets, the company’s revenues have been significantly impacted by the effects of COVID-19 on its primary clients in the food service industry. John O’s Foods Inc. employs 70 skilled employees in Wheatley.
Presteve Foods Limited, a harvester, processor and distributor of wholesale freshwater fish and seafood from all five Great Lakes and other North American inland lakes, is receiving $400,000 in support through RRRF. As its primary customers in the restaurant industry have been severely impacted by COVID-19, the company is experiencing a 66 percent decrease in sales, and was forced to temporarily shut down production for one month at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Presteve Foods Limited employs 138 skilled employees in Wheatley.
“Canada’s fish and seafood sector employs thousands of hard-working women and men and plays a critical role in our economy and increases our food security. With FedDev Ontario’s investment, we are ensuring that four important fish- and seafood-processors in the Chatham-Kent area are well equipped to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, retain and attract skilled employees and get through this pandemic, emerging stronger than ever before.”
– Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh
“Fish- and seafood-processing businesses are the heart of many rural, coastal communities. They create jobs and help grow the economy. These four investments will help the sector adapt to meet current COVID-19 safety measures, bounce back from the pandemic and play a leading role in our economic recovery. We will get through this crisis together.”
– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“The RRRF investment will enable us to create more skilled jobs and to expand the supply of our freshwater products across Canada. It will also be instrumental in supporting a sustainable future for the regional fishing industry.”
– Salvatore Peralta, President and CEO, A&A Marine Foods
“The support received from the RRRF fund has allowed Great Lakes to continue to make changes in our operations to keep our staff safe. Furthermore, the working capital support has allowed us to accelerate our expansion plans as we prepare for the reopening of our international markets by hiring eight additional full-time staff.”
– John Neate, President and CEO, Great Lakes Food Company
“The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. For businesses like John O’s Foods selling to food service, it has been a time of great uncertainty. The RRRF program has played a critical role in our ability to adjust and continue to produce high quality Ontario lake fish. We are grateful for the support, and to our employees who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic when no playbook existed.”
– John Omstead, Founder and CEO, John O’s Foods Inc.
“Thanks to the RRRF funding, Presteve Foods Limited is improving all aspects of our COVID-19 safety measures, including purchasing mandatory PPE, retrofitting existing and new shared workspaces, and boosting our capacity to monitor employee compliance.”
– Dan Walda, Chief Financial Officer, Presteve Foods Limited
The Lake Erie fish- and seafood- processing sector accounts for over 80 percent of commercial fishing in Ontario and close to 800 direct and indirect jobs, with an economic impact of over $194 million.
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan has helped to protect millions of jobs, provide emergency support to families, and keep businesses afloat throughout the pandemic.
One of the critical measures to provide liquidity support is the more than $2-billion Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), which so far has protected over 152,000 jobs across Canada by providing over $1.3 billion to support over 19,000 businesses and organizations, including 11,000 businesses located in rural areas and nearly 6,500 businesses owned by women.
RRRF was created to support businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have not been able to access other supports and complement other COVID-19 relief measures, taking into account regional needs and realities.
Through this Fund, FedDev Ontario is delivering $436.4 million in southern Ontario.