Given the current situation, the last few months have demanded an unprecedented effort from every sector that supplies essential products in Chile. This is the case of companies from the Chilean pork and poultry industry, which are mainly located in rural areas of the O’Higgins, Maule, and Metropolitan Regions. “The sector is comprised of companies that know about hard word. For more than three decades, they have been searching for and implementing new health, safety, and biosecurity standards to meet the requirements of the most demanding markets where Chile exports,” says Juan Carlos Domínguez, President of ChileCarne, the Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association. Over the past few months, in addition to preserving and perfecting those standards during a pandemic, they have focused on the well-being of their workers and the communities surrounding their production facilities.

During the first half of 2020, the sector’s demand remained the same (domestically and globally), which has required doubling efforts to benefit consumers and the well-being and health of workers. In some cases, it has been necessary to hire new employees.

According to ChileCarne’s figures, the poultry and pork industry provides work to over 30,000 people via 19,000 direct and 12,600 indirect jobs. Most of them are located in rural sectors of Chile’s central region, particularly the O’Higgins Region (Cachapoal Province) with 53%, the Melipilla Province with 33%, followed by the Quillota Province with 7%, and the Maule Region (provinces of Talca and Linares) with 3% of total jobs. Regarding the industry suppliers, 11,206 are companies from various Chilean regions and 69% of them are small businesses. This means that the industry has an impact on more than 100,000 people through its suppliers.

In light of this reality, the ChileCarne association prepared a report on the impact of these companies on employment in the regions where they operate.

Maxagro, for example, had 1,200 workers from the O’Higgins and Ñuble Regions at the beginning of 2020. During these months, it hired 200 additional workers, a reality that started a few years ago: “Only in Ñuble, where we have been operating since 2014, the workforce has increased by almost 70% since then,” says Pablo Espinosa, Maxagro’s General Manager.

Currently, the company is intensifying the work at its facilities in Pichidegua and Chillán, and all of its employees come from the communities where Maxagro operates. In addition, the company favors local services and suppliers to meet its demands in areas such as transportation, cleaning services, and maintenance.

Meanwhile, Coexca is one of the main sources of employment in the Maule Region, specifically in the municipalities of Talca, Maule, and San Javier. Along with the expansion of the local wine industry, today the company is recognized as a key economic driver for the development of the area and its inhabitants. In total, the company and its subsidiaries provide direct and indirect jobs for more than 1,000 families. Over the last 18 years,  they have helped reduce the high unemployment rate of the Maule region, where agricultural activity with temporary job offers is prevalent.

Guillermo García, General Manager of Coexca, mentions the case of Héctor Carreño, “who worked for a few years during the company’s early days in the slaughtering area of the processing plant, and later, with our support, created his own transportation business. Today, he is one of the company’s service providers for product distribution to the local market.” Another case is that of Marcela Lobos, who transports over a dozen workers daily from the Maule Valley to the San Agustín del Arbolillo pork producing center in San Javier and its surroundings. Marcela says: “I am from Sauzal, a community that has received a lot of support from Coexca. Working as a chauffeur has been a great experience in a sector usually dominated by men. The truth is that I have always had the support of the company and I have responded accordingly. We have grown together,” she says. The company has provided Marcela with its support to retrofit one of her passenger buses.

Agrosuper helps stimulate the Chilean economy, and for 65 years it has prioritized hiring employees from the places where it operates, as this allows the company to contribute to the growth of the regions where it is present. The largest number of its workers are located in the O’Higgins Region, where it has operations in 14 municipalities, accounting for 59.3% of the company’s total staff.

Agrosuper is currently focused on maintaining the delivery of high quality and safe food throughout the country. “Our operational continuity is key to achieving that, especially in our company, since we work with live animals that require specific care for their daily feeding, assistance in births, the operation of treatment systems, meat processing, and product distribution, among other things. These tasks are carried out by our highly-specialized employees to ensure both the supply and the operation of the logistics chain, a priority for all authorities,” highlights Rafael Prieto, Corporate Affairs Manager of Agrosuper.

Regarding support and training programs for the communities surrounding their plants, Prieto explains: “given the current scenario, we have adapted the way in which we relate, and although we are apart, we have found ways to stay close to our neighbors and support them during this emergency situation. We transformed our programs and digitalized their contents to provide continuity to the initiatives we have recently been working on together.”

All the companies in the industry have fortified their permanent biosecurity measures, dividing teams, reinforcing sanitization of work environments, implementing home-office formats where possible, and taking special care of workers from high-risk groups, such as those over 60, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases, to name a few.[:]