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Feds back Moose Jaw pork plant renovations

The federal government will loan over $1.7 million to refurbish and re-equip a Moose Jaw, Sask. hog processing plant that’s sat idle since 2006.

Richmond, B.C.-based meat firm Donald’s Fine Foods and its specialty pork packing arm, Britco Pork of Langley, B.C., signed a deal this summer to buy the former Moose Jaw Pork Packers plant, reportedly for just $100,000.

The repayable funds that the buyer will get from the federal AgriProcessing Initiative are expected to go toward buying new slaughter and meat processing equipment, the government said in a release Friday.

Donald’s, operated by B.C. businessman Donald Leung since 1993, expects to process about 300,000 hogs a year at Moose Jaw, creating up to 221 full-time jobs.

Moreover, “this investment will reintroduce pork slaughter capacity to Saskatchewan, a province responsible for approximately 10 per cent of Canada’s swine production,” the government said.

Saskatchewan hog farmers have been left wanting for nearby slaughter capacity since Maple Leaf-owned Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods shut its Saskatoon plant in 2007. The bulk of Saskatchewan’s hog production is now trucked to Alberta packers or to Maple Leaf’s hog plant at Brandon, Man.

“This investment will allow Donald’s Fine Foods to increase its capacity and boost sales of Canadian pork right here in Moose Jaw and around the world,” local MP Ray Boughen said in the government’s release.

The AgriProcessing Initiative, budgeted for up to $50 million over five years within the federal AgriFlexibility Fund, is meant to back existing food processing firms for adoption of new and/or new-to-company manufacturing technologies and processes, to boost competitiveness.

Donald’s announcement this summer came a few months before Moose Jaw’s other major meat packer, XL Beef, declared its plans to permanently shut its plant there by about mid-November.

The XL plant had been effectively offline since April last year, when the company laid off its unionized staff for the summer and then locked them out in a contract dispute in September as the layoff period ended.

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