Maple Leaf resuming production at Winnipeg after fire

Maple Leaf Foods is gradually increasing the rate of production and packaging at its Winnipeg prepared meats plant, where a fire caused water and smoke damage last week.

Packaging lines are running at about 50 per cent of their normal rate and production more slowly than that, said Lynda Kuhn, senior vice-president of communications at Maple Leaf.

"It’s going to be picking up through the course of the week," she said Monday.

The fire last Wednesday evening temporarily idled production of prepared meats. The plant’s ham-boning section was not affected.

Winnipeg news outlets last week quoted city fire officials as saying the blaze started on the roof and caused an estimated $2 million in damages.

The facility, on Lagimodiere Boulevard in the city’s St. Boniface area, is scheduled to undergo an $85 million expansion starting this fall to 340,000 square feet from 270,000.

That expansion, announced last month, is to see new ham and bacon smokehouses, coolers, packaging lines and other equipment will be added, along with 345 additional jobs.

By mid-2013, the Lagimodiere plant is to become Maple Leaf’s "centre of excellence" for ham and will also be the largest bacon processing plant in Canada, taking on capacity from plants scheduled for closure at Moncton, N.B. and North Battleford, Sask.

Also scheduled to close, by the end of 2014, is St. Boniface’s other Maple Leaf plant, a former Schneiders facility making Hot Rods pepperoni sticks.

 — With files from staff.

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