Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers says activists setting Manitoba government’s agenda threaten Maple Leaf plant in Brandon.
Morgan Curran-Blaney, the manager of Maple Leaf Brandon says, for the company’s Brandon, MB pork processing plant to reach full double shift capacity it will need to access another 20 thousand hogs per week.
That plant can process over 100,000 a week, but for normal purposes at full double shift capacity, the Brandon plant can process about 90 thousand hogs per week.
Curran-Blaney says because hog farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan produce fewer hogs, the plant processes about 20 thousand hogs per week below chorney kapcapacity.
He says while producers are having a great year in 2014, financial returns in previous years weren’t nearly as good and producers left the business, others didn’t expand and even two of the largest producers both declared bankruptcy, one of which Maple Leaf purchased and the other one Olymel bought.
“The real challenge in terms of volume is we just saw a lot of people, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and they got out of the industry,” said Curran-Blaney. “We would want to see, within Brandon itself, an additional 20 thousand hogs a week to get us back up to 90 thousand hogs. That’s where we’ve targeted right now and we’re working actively to get back up to that hog volume.”
He says stakeholders everywhere must do their part to achieve that goal.
“There’s obviously Maple Leaf, our producers would want to expand and expand responsibly but there’s also offshoots,” says the Brandon Maple Leaf Foods plant manager. “The city of Brandon has been very active and a certain advocate for us and I think it comes down to also provincially. Having a strong economy helps the province as well.”
Curran-Blaney says Manitoba’s hog moratorium is one thing that is impeding the growth of hog production and another is uncertainty. Right now producers are having a good year but they’re going to want to see a few good years before they’ll go ahead and commit the capital to invest and expand.
At a Keystone Agricultural Producers general council meeting in Brandon farmers raised the moratorium on hog production in Manitoba issue, and the shortage of pigs going to Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon.
Curran-Blaney, told KAP members how important the roles Manitoba’s pork industry and Maple Leaf are in the province.
The plant is a major contributor to Brandon’s 16 per cent population growth, employs 2,300 people, and is planning $15 million in upgrades that will translate into a very large amount of economic activity in the Brandon area, he said.
KAP president Doug Chorney says both federal and provincial government are supporting and funding the initiatives that will add value here in Manitoba to primary production.
“I can’t think of a better example of this than pork processing at a world-class plant, and yet our hands are tied in increasing production to meet the plant’s needs,” said Chorney.
He says the moratorium of hog barn construction threatens the jobs in Brandon and the long-term viability of the Maple Leaf plant if the government doesn’t change its attitude.
“We’ve worked hard with Manitoba Pork Council and the Manitoba government to look at how to move forward with a practical approach,” he says. “That got sidelined about a month ago when a letter to the editor came from conservation minister Gord Mackintosh saying they have absolutely no flexibility. That is unacceptable. Clearly we need more hog production in Manitoba for these processing plants.”
Chorney says this may well threaten facility’s future viability if Manitoba can’t rebuild its hog production infrastructure. It is unacceptable to allow this activist agenda to drive government policy. •
— By Harry Siemens