CANADA – Canadian-based pork producer, Olymel, has announced the closure of its Vallée-Jonction facility in Quebec, following a rise in costs related to inflation and other factors, and is envisaged to leave 994 workers jobless.

The CEO and president of Olymel, Yanick Gervais, has described the closing of the 32-year-old plant as “inevitable,” after what he called a difficult past two years for the company.

“The pandemic, the labour shortage, the rise of costs related to inflation, not to mention the closure of the Chinese market have affected the fresh pork industry,” said Gervais.

“The decision to close the Vallée-Jonction plant was based on considerations about its operational capacity,” he added, blaming the labour shortage in the area and the state of the plant’s infrastructure.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, sees the closing of the plant as a logical choice given the company’s options.

According to Charlebois, the plant’s meat processing facilities were outdated and would require an expensive upgrade if the company wanted to boost its business and stay competitive.

“Olymel is a prisoner of its facilities,” he said. “It needs to recalibrate to better support its farmers, and I do believe that we will lose some hog farms in the province of Quebec.”

The mayor of Vallée-Jonction, Patricia Drouin, said the impact would be felt throughout the Chaudière-Appalaches region.

The mayor added that despite the announcement of the plant’s closure, Vallée-Jonction and its partners are looking for ways in which the region will not lose the manpower that was in the company.

Of the 994 people affected by the closure, 122 workers were temporary foreign workers, 911 are union members and 83 are executives.

The Éleveurs de porcs du Québec, an organization that advocates for Quebec pig breeders, also pledged support to its members in the Beauce.

“No farmer will be left behind,” a spokesperson said in an email. “The priority of the organization is to ensure that there is minimal impact on their daily lives, and we will support those most affected.”

The Quebec Farmers’ Union, known by its French acronym, UPA, called for a “neutral and independent analysis” of the pork-processing industry from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In February, Olymel also announced the closure of its pork processing plants in Blainville and Laval. In November, it announced the closure of a factory in Saint-Hyacinthe.

According to Gervais, over 200 workers have left the plant in the past two years and the facility would have required a US$40 million investment to keep it up and running.

He added that the market has been a pretty bad worldwide problem causing all the costs going and it has become increasingly difficult to compete with companies in other countries.

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