Windsor·Audio

Canada's only rice mill running 24/7 during pandemic

While many workplaces have shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dainty Food's Windsor rice processor ramped up production.

While foodservice business has plummeted, Dainty Foods' retail sales up 75 per cent

Outside the Dainty Foods mill in Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

While many workplaces have shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, one west-end Windsor factory actually got busier.

Dainty Foods is Canada's only rice mill, processing rice grown in the United States and other countries. Since mid-March, the plant has been running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — a major increase from its normal 16 hours a day, five days a week schedule.

According to James Maitland, the company's chief operating officer, at the same time Dainty's foodservice — or restaurant — business plummeted roughly 70 per cent, its retail sales have skyrocketed by 75 per cent.

The pandemic has caused some major changes for the business. For one thing, the cost of rice has increased 10 to 20 per cent, a result of reduced crop inventory, increased worldwide demand, and export restrictions imposed by some rice producing nations. 

However, Maitland said they've been able to minimize the cost passed on to customers by finding ways to increase efficiencies at the facility.

James Maitland is the chief operating officer of Dainty Foods in Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Physical distancing requirements have also forced the mill to change the way it operates.

"We separated our shifts so there's no more employee overlap [and we've minimized] the amount of chairs in the lunchroom and created other eating areas," Maitland told Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre, adding visual markers have also been installed.

"When employees have to work close by each other, we actually put [plexiglass] on carts ... and put it between them to create a physical barrier between the two workspaces."

Tap to hear Maitland's full conversation on the CBC's Afternoon Drive:

How has COVID-19 affected Canada's only rice mill? We asked James Maitland, COO of the Dainty Foods plant in Windsor. 5:28

The executive said his company and workers are committed to keeping grocery stores stocked.

"One employee actually put it in very good perspective for me," Maitland explained.

"'[He said] 'when I go into the stores, I see people panicked when they see the shelves are empty — so as Canada's only rice mill, it's our job to keep the stores full, to help calm people down.'"

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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