Maple Leaf Restructuring Generates Mixed Feelings in Saskatchewan

Farmscape for October 21, 2011   (Episode 3988)

The Saskatchewan Pork Development Board is confident a 560 million dollar restructuring plan announced by Maple Leaf Foods will benefit Canada's pork producers but it's disappointed with the closure of the company's North Battleford bacon plant.

Maple Leaf Foods announced Wednesday it will build a new 395 million dollar prepared meats facility in Hamilton, expand existing plants in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Brampton and consolidate product distribution into two centres, a new facility in Ontario and an existing facility in Saskatoon.

The move, part of an effort to reduce operating costs and increase productivity, will result in the closure of processing plants in North Battleford, Kitchener, Hamilton, Toronto, Moncton and a small facility in Winnipeg and distribution centres in Moncton, Burlington, Kitchener and Coquitlam.

Sask Pork industry and policy analysis manager Mark Ferguson says there's both good and bad news in the announcement.

Clip-Mark Ferguson-Saskatchewan Pork Development Board:
It's unfortunate news for the province of Saskatchewan and for the workers who are employed at the North Battleford plant.

It's never easy for a community that size to lose over 300 jobs and hopefully it doesn't take long to find a buyer for that plant and for it to get running again doing something different.

At the same time it's good news in Saskatchewan that there's going to be a 45 million dollar investment in Saskatoon and some additional jobs there.

It's always positive to see investment by processors in their businesses and it shows they're committed to the industries.

It's unfortunate that along with a big investment is coming the closure of a few facilities but I think tit shows that the processors have confidence staying in Canada and buying hogs from Canadian producers and, in general, that's a good thing for producers.

Ferguson says, if Maple Leaf is able to consolidate its operations and do more processing and make themselves more profitable, hopefully some profit that can be passed back to producers in the form of higher prices and that would benefit everyone.

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       * Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council