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This article was published 25/10/2017 (239 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba dairy farmers have a $100-million reason to smile.
A new 80,000-square-foot dairy processing plant officially opened Wednesday in Winnipeg that will boost dairy-processing capacity in the province by nearly 40 per cent and eliminate the need for local farmers to haul their excess milk out of the province to be processed.
About $100 million was spent on converting a former egg-processing facility at 70 Irene St. into the new state-of-the-art dairy plant. The plant employs 67 skilled workers and has the capacity to process 180 million litres of milk per year.
The facility is a joint venture between two major Canadian dairy processors — B.C.-based Vitalus Nutrition Inc. and Ontario-based Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. It will produce a full range of high-value milk proteins, buttermilk powders and butter for the Canadian and international markets.
"This is a very promising moment for the dairy sector," Dairy Farmers of Manitoba (DFM) chair David Wiens said in an interview following Wednesday’s grand opening event and tour of the new facility.
"When we see this kind of processing happening here, we’re ensuring that there will be a viable and sustainable (dairy) industry here into the next generation and beyond."
Wiens explained the existing processing plants in the province, which include two larger facilities in Winnipeg, several smaller ones in rural Manitoba and the Bothwell Cheese factory in New Bothwell, weren’t able to handle all of the milk Manitoba farmers are allowed to produce under industry regulations.
"So we were hauling milk to Quebec when we could and cascading it as far as Vancouver just trying to find a home for all of the milk. And still, there were times when all doors were closed to us," he said. "Now with this one plant, it’s almost a 40 per cent boost in processing capacity because this is not a replacement (of an older existing plant). This is an altogether new plant in the province."
Wiens said that in anticipation of the new plant opening, Manitoba dairy farmers have ramped up their production by about 12 per cent over the past year. As well, a number of new dairy farmers have moved here from other provinces to take advantage of the new production capacity here.
"We’re now producing milk at volumes we never have before," he said. "Not only will we be processing all of our own milk, we’re going to be bringing milk in from Saskatchewan and even further west if we have to."
Under the arrangement DFM negotiated with MDI Holdings Corp. — the new joint venture created by Vitalus and Gay Lea to operate the Winnipeg facility — Manitoba farmers sell their raw milk to DFM, which in turn will supply milk to the new MDI plant.
Wiens noted the MDI plant is the second new dairy processing facility to open in the province this year. The other was a new fluid milk plant Parmalat opened last spring in Transcona.
But the opening of that plant didn’t add to the province’s processing capacity because it replaced an older one that had reached the end of its life cycle.
Philip Vanderpol, president and CEO of Vitalus and chairman of MDI Holdings, said the new plant will help solidify Vitalus’s position as a global market leader in the production of high-quality, innovative, customized dairy proteins. The proteins are used as an ingredient in a variety of products, including baked goods, confections, snack foods, dairy products, instant formula, protein drinks and nutrition bars.
Gay Lea president and CEO Michael Barrett said, "the new processing facility also enables Gay Lea Foods, as Canada’s leading butter producer, to better service our valued retail and food service customers (and) growing the Canadian food manufacturing sector across Canada."