Time running out for Maritimes only beef processing plant

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
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CHARLOTTETOWN With time running out on the future of the Maritimes only beef processing plant, the Island facility is ramping up efforts for support.

CHARLOTTETOWN With time running out on the future of the Maritimes only beef processing plant, the Island facility is ramping up efforts for support.

Its about 25 days and counting for Atlantic Beef Products before the P.E.I. government puts an end to subsidizing the plants operating costs.

In an act of desperation, the board of directors of Island-based Atlantic Beef Producers Co-op published full-page advertisements in newspapers in Halifax and New Brunswick on the weekend.

The ads ask the premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to contribute financially to ensure the plants survival especially since there are about 1,200 beef producers in each province who would be affected.

The plant was originally built to help the Maritime beef industry market its own product, instead of shipping to Ontario for processing. But trying to get the end product on the shelves of chain stores that buy on the world market is undermining the future of the plant.

Its now or never, says Rinnie Bradley, executive director of the P.E.I. Cattlemens Association. We are at a critical point and time is running out.

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz granted a 90-day term in early June for the plant to get its business plan in order before the government called it quits on paying out about $500,000 a month in operating costs.

Ghiz said the province couldnt go it alone, especially when the majority of beef for the plant comes from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

But governments wouldnt have to be on the hook if Maritime beef got the same consideration in major stores like beef from Alberta and Argentina.

We placed the ads to alert the people of our sister provinces that they are our last hope, said Bradley. But if we could just tap a little portion of the marketplace, we wouldnt have this problem.

The plant opened three years ago with great plans to supply the Maritime marketplace with homegrown beef products, but cracking the chain store habits of bulk buying from world suppliers has been difficult.

Due to the holiday Monday, no official spokesman could be reached from the grocery operations.

The newspaper ads signed by the co-operatives six directors from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island make it clear that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have a major stake in the plants future.

The value of Atlantic Canadas beef-producing industry at the farm gate is more than $100 million a year.

Applying an economic multiplier of 2.5 to account for feed, equipment, transportation and labour, and the industrys worth to the regional economy is more than $250 million a year.

(Charlottetown Guardian)

18:39ET 06-08-07

Organizations: Atlantic Beef Products, Atlantic Beef Producers Co-op, P.E.I. Cattlemens Association

Geographic location: Maritime, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia CHARLOTTETOWN Halifax Ontario Alberta Argentina Atlantic Canadas

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