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Olymel in talks over Colbex beef plant

Quebec pork and poultry packing giant Olymel says no deal has been reached for it to take an partnership stake in the producer-owned Levinoff-Colbex cull cow slaughter plant.

However, a company spokesperson said Wednesday, the company has been in talks since last spring, and remains in talks, with both the Quebec government and the provincial cattle producers’ organization, which has owned the plant since 2006.

"There are still discussions in which Olymel is involved," Richard Vigneault said in a short interview Wednesday.

Vigneault refuted an article published online Tuesday by La Terre de chez nous, the news organ of Quebec’s influential general farm group, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA).

La Terre’s Julie Mercier reported Olymel as being on the verge of a deal which would see it take over management of the Colbex plant, fulfilling a condition reportedly laid out by the province before it would provide further support to the facility.

The province, she said, would put up $6 million to pare down the plant’s deficit and another $6 million in working capital.

As far as Olymel is concerned, Vigneault said Wednesday, there is as yet no agreement in place and he would not confirm the terms reported by La Terre.

The plant is currently operated by Groupe Cola, its previous owners, who still handle its day-to-day management such as sales, marketing and human resources, on behalf of the Federation des producteurs de bovins du Quebec.

Slaughter volumes at the Colbex plant are now running under 20,000 head, while rising costs and the end of federal support for the removal of specified risk materials (SRMs, the tissues known to harbour the prions that cause BSE in infected animals) have dragged on the plant’s net income, Mercier wrote.

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