WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian farmers and agriculture businesses have claimed most of the C$5 billion ($3.55 billion) in extra credit offered by Ottawa to boost their cash flow during the coronavirus pandemic, in less than two months.
Some 4,800 farmers and businesses have used options to defer payments on loans totalling C$4 billion ($2.84 billion) and established credit lines worth another C$500 million, the federal agriculture ministry said in a release on Thursday.
The Canadian government had said on March 23 that it would boost the lending capacity of Farm Credit Canada (FCC), a government agriculture lender, by C$5 billion.
The pandemic has hit livestock farmers especially hard, as outbreaks at meat-processing plants left them with less demand for their pigs and cattle, even as meat prices in stores have climbed.
Grain and oilseed farmers are also hurting as some contracts to deliver crops were cancelled or delayed due to changing processing demands, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers said in a release.
Spring is a costly time for farmers as they take delivery of seed and fertilizer needed to plant summer crops.
Canada is one of the world’s biggest grain and meat exporters.
The federal government also said it was setting up a C$100-million fund through FCC and venture capital firm Forage Capital to support agriculture companies involved in production, packaging and distribution, that are retooling their business models.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Marguerita Choy
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