Agropur to consolidate B.C. milk processing


Dairy co-operative Agropur plans to tighten up its fluid milk processing on British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, upgrading its milk plant at Burnaby and shutting its plant at Chilliwack.

Quebec-based Agropur took over the Burnaby plant, along with facilities in Edmonton and Winnipeg, when it bought the former Canada Safeway milk processing plants from Sobeys last year.

Closing the Chilliwack plant will affect 42 Agropur employees, while “additional investments” will need to be made at Burnaby to handle the added production, the company said.

The plant closure is expected to be wrapped up by late October next year. Affected staff will get opportunities to apply for “equivalent” positions at other Agropur sites, the company said.

The decision follows Agropur’s “ongoing” review of its processing operations, CEO Robert Coallier said in a release Wednesday. “Following the recent acquisition of the Burnaby facility, Agropur has decided to consolidate its operations and redirect production to its two other plants in British Columbia.”

Agropur’s deal with Sobeys for the dairy plants last year included a new “long-term” agreement to supply the Sobeys, IGA and Safeway retail chains with milk, yogurt and ice cream, and to use the Safeway chain’s Lucerne brand and trademarks under license.

“The decision to close Chilliwack and transfer its volume to our existing B.C. manufacturing facilities was a difficult one,” Agropur Canada president Serge Paquette said in the same release. “It is in no way reflective of the hard work and commitment of our employees at Chilliwack.”

Agropur, whose brands include Natrel, Quebon and Island Farms, has operated in Chilliwack since 1998, when it bought the former Grace-Mar Dairy plant. It also bought Chilliwack-based ice cream maker Coast Mountain Dairy in 2013.

In keeping with its ongoing review, Agropur has been in both cost-containment and capacity-boosting mode in recent years, spending over $100 million last year on upgrades at plants in Alberta and Quebec, plus new lab and head office space at Longueuil, Que.

The company also closed an older Montreal-area milk plant and announced last month its B.C.-based Island Farms arm would discontinue its yogurt line due to “declining” sales in recent years.

Along with the former Safeway plants in the West, the company’s acquisitions in the past couple of years have included Northumberland Dairy Co-operative, Dairytown Products, Farmers Co-operative Dairy, Central Dairies and Cook’s Dairy, all in Atlantic Canada. — Network


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