Dairy co-operative Agropur will consolidate its fluid milk production for Western Canada further west this fall, as it moves to shut its operation in Winnipeg.
The Quebec-based co-operative announced Tuesday it will close its Winnipeg fluid milk plant effective Sept. 24 — affecting 48 jobs — and transfer that work to plants at Edmonton, Victoria and Burnaby.
“Unfortunately, the level of investment required to maintain the plant’s competitiveness in the coming years was becoming too high,” Agropur CEO Emile Cordeau said in a release.
“We are making this strategic decision to optimize our consumer milk network in Western Canada. This will help simplify our business model and ensure our competitiveness.”
The Winnipeg, Edmonton and Burnaby plants all came to Agropur in a 2014 deal to buy Sobeys’ former Canada Safeway milk processing facilities, following Sobeys’ takeover of Canada Safeway’s stores and operations in Western Canada in 2013.
The deal to buy the plants included a supply agreement to produce milk for the retailer’s Lucerne brand under license. An Agropur representative wasn’t immediately available Tuesday to say how the Winnipeg plant’s closure will affect the Lucerne fluid milk supply chain.
Dairy Farmers of Manitoba general manager Brent Achtemichuk said via email the organization considers the plant closure “a loss for our province” but understands Agropur “had to make a business decision to consolidate operations in Western Canada.”
All dairy farmers in Western Canada share revenue collected from processing plants in the region, he said, which in turn “helps to mitigate the impact of a plant closure.”
Manitoba’s dairy farmers have enough processing capacity for milk produced in the province at this time, but “we continue to encourage processors to invest in our province,” he said.
As of last December, Manitoba’s 259 dairy farms milk about 47,000 cows in all, producing 409 million litres in the 2019-20 dairy year, supplying the Agropur facility and 10 other Manitoba processing plants.
Agropur said Tuesday it’s “aware of the impact this decision will have” and affected employees “will be able to take advantage of available programs, including employment opportunities at other Agropur sites, severance packages, and the employee and family assistance program.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network