Pork Council looking for solutions following Olymel closure

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Olymel has announced the closure of its Vallée-Jonction, Quebec, plant, and will layoff about 1,000 people in the process. It’s expected to plant will take eight months to wind down, and staff will be offered positions at other Olymel plants.

The hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plant has wracked up nearly $400 million in losses over the past two years and is jeopardizing the entire company’s profitability, Olymel says. Keeping the plant going would require investing tens of millions of dollars in renovations, says Yanick Gervais, president and CEO of Olymel.

Olymel will focus on its three other hog slaughtering, cutting, and deboning plants in Saint-Esprit (Lanaudière), Yamachiche (Mauricie) and Ange-Gardien (Montérégie-West). Slaughter capacity has been adjusted from 140,000 to 81,000 hogs per week.

All three plants are located in areas with better recruitment opportunities. “Olymel must find a better balance between the available workforce and the company’s slaughter capacity in order to assure the sustainability of the fresh pork sector,” the company says. The company is also in the process of securing a new agreement between buyer-processors and hog producers.

The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) says the news is difficult for the industry.

“The reasons the company stated — the pandemic, an ongoing labour shortage, inflationary pressures and challenges with accessing foreign markets – have impacted the entire industry,” says Rene Roy, chair of the CPC. “We know food security is an ongoing question for governments across Canada, and food security starts with producers being able to compete and have buyers for their products.”

Roy adds that with almost $5 billion in pork exports, Canada’s industry needs assurance that its trade agreements work for the sector. “There are international markets for our products, and Canadian pork producers are cost-competitive globally,” says Roy. “We need our trade agreements to work for us, we need our agricultural policies to work for us, and we need to work together as an industry to find long-term solutions.”

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