Scientists from the Mayagüez Campus (RUM) will investigate the impact of agricultural extension training on Covid-19 in the meat supply chain in Puerto Rico.
The project, titled Fighting Covid-19: Assessment of the Impact of Agricultural Extension Training on Covid-19 in the Meat Supply Chain in Puerto Rico, received a grant of $ 175,000 from the government of Puerto Rico and was one of the 10 selected proposals from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).
“One of the main goals is to offer technical assistance and non-formal education to farmers and food processors to address the health and safety problems of Covid-19 in the workforce. Furthermore, we seek to increase local meat production, reducing health risks and operating costs, ”said Julio Hernández Correa, principal investigator.
The professor of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, attached to the Agricultural Experiment Station (EEA) of the UPR will have Alexandra Gregory, Fernando Pérez and María Rodríguez as co-researchers.
Also participating are Myrna Comas, Róbinson Rodríguez, Edly Santiago and Aixa Serrano, from the College of Agricultural Sciences. Similarly, Dr. Magda Latorre, from the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Hernández Correa explained that this is the first study that seeks to explore the interactions of the meat supply chain in Puerto Rico with an interdisciplinary approach.
The project has five work teams:
-Social evaluation of the experience associated with Covid-19 of workers in the meat distribution chain.
-Economic evaluation of the effects of Covid-19 and quarantine in agribusiness and its meat industry.
-Development and implementation of training on prevention and management of Covid-19 in the different links of the meat production and distribution chain.
-Evaluation of the effect of these trainings.
-Microbiological evaluation of the effects of training.
Hernández stressed that on the island he knows little about how Covid 19 has affected meat processing plants.
“I conducted a preliminary study that suggested that Covid is overrepresented in employees who work in manufacturing industries, including meat processing plants. It is necessary to protect the local agricultural sector, since 90 percent of the meat on the island is imported ”, he pointed out.
He added that “a reduction in meat imports, due to the closure of meat processing plants in the United States, can generate serious problems of food insecurity.”
For his part, Dr. Jorge Haddock, the president of the UPR, highlighted the quality and importance of scientific research at a local and global level.
“We are very proud and hopeful with the results of the investigation. Its development and results will not only provide valuable information for the meat industry, but will also provide technical assistance and formal education to farmers, one of our objectives as the main educational center on the island ”, Haddock indicated.