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Beef-processing plant closure “devastating”

Our History: November 1990

The front page of our November 8, 1990 issue carried the news of closure of the last major beef-processing plant in Manitoba. Burns had announced the immediate shutdown of its Brandon plant, meaning the loss of processing capacity for 2,000 cattle per week and 145 jobs. However, the plant had only been running at half capacity, which was attributed to an exodus of finished cattle to Alberta and the U.S. The Burns closure came after the closure of East-West Packers in Winnipeg the previous March. Speaking at the Manitoba Pool Elevators annual meeting, Manitoba Agriculture Minister Glen Findlay blamed the loss of the Burns plant on Alberta subsidies, referring to the province as “the European Community of Western Canada.”

Manitoba Pool Elevators announced $4.3 million in net earnings, its biggest profit since 1986, following a 25 per cent increase in grain handle from the previous year. But reflecting the same conditions for the Burns closure, the Pool livestock division reported a $154,000 loss.

There were also losses at CSP Foods, the oilseed-crushing operations owned by the three Prairie Pools, and the Manitoba Pool annual meeting was told that a closure of one of the three CSP plants was being considered because a combination of excess capacity and government policy on freight rates was hurting industry profits. However, Western Co-operative Fertilizers, also owned by the Pools, reported a profit of $7.6 million.

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