Prince Edward Island’s provincial government is seeing "positive indicators" at the only remaining federally-inspected beef packing plant east of Toronto.
P.E.I. Agriculture Minister George Webster reported in a release Thursday that "positive steps are being taken to increase profits" at the beleaguered Atlantic Beef Products plant at Albany, about 20 km southeast of Summerside.
"I met with the board of directors recently and was very pleased to hear of the positive indicators that are showing improved results at the beef plant," he said, hailing staff and management for their work "improving the sustainability" of the plant.
The province noted the plant has recently hired a management team which has "expertise in specialized beef processing and marketing" and is "working closely with staff" to increase efficiencies and meet consumer demand for specific products.
"A major piece of the puzzle has been filled with the experience that we now have working with us at the plant," Atlantic Beef president Mike Nabuurs said in the province’s release.
P.E.I. Cattle Producers chairman Ivan Johnson said in a June newsletter that the plant had been reaching its cattle numbers weekly, and also thanked dairy producers for their support of the facility.
"With positive cattle prices, we hope provincial cattle numbers will increase," he wrote in June. "Recent heifer replacement numbers are encouraging, while cull cow prices continue to stay strong."
For the week of Sept. 3, the plant was paying $1.19 a pound (base price) for D1 cull cows; $1.13/lb. for D3 cows over 650 lbs.; and $1.84/lb. (AAA and AA) for slaughter steers and heifers.
The province’s 400 cattle producers "need to make this work," Johnson wrote in June. "It is well known that the beef industry generates $24 million in annual sales and $144 million in spin-off dollars to (P.E.I.’s) economy."
Atlantic Beef, incorporated in 2003 and built in partnership with local producers in 2005, booked losses each year from its outset, even following a 2007 deal for a cash infusion from the federal, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. governments.
As the plant’s co-owner, the P.E.I. government noted this spring it had put a total of over $40 million in capital and operating subsidies into the plant since 2005. The province’s 2012 budget caps future assistance for Atlantic Beef at $1.5 million per year.