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Milk production being ramped up

New dairy-processing plants will allow Manitoba milk producers to have quota fully issued

Manitoba’s dairy farmers are preparing for what may be the largest increase of processing capacity ever seen as a result of one project.

“I don’t know if there has ever been a situation elsewhere in Canada where there has been a 40 per cent increase in processing capacity in a province from just one project, but we are certainly going to be the benefactors of that,” David Wiens, chair of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, told producers during a district meeting in Headingley last week.

Of course, Manitoba’s milk producers won’t be the only ones to benefit from the refurbishment of an old egg-processing facility in Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Industrial Park. Industry growth resulting from the Vitalus Nutrition and Gay Lea Foods dairy ingredients plant will be shared nationally.

“Any growth in the market as a result of this plant is shared nationally,” Wiens said, but added that western provinces actually receive a disproportionate share of industry growth. “So Western Canada will certainly benefit in a big way from this plant.”

As a result of this increased processing capacity, Wiens said Manitoba dairy producers will finally be fully issued Manitoba’s portion of the national quota allocation.

“This is one thing that we have not been able to do in the last few years, simply because of a lack of processing capacity,” he said. “In the past we were hauling milk into Quebec and cascading milk as far west as Abbotsford. Now, this means that all of this milk is going to be processed in the province and in fact, milk will be coming in from the other western provinces to help us fill the capacity.”

The organization’s general manager, Brent Achtemichuk, said production on Manitoba dairy farms is already increasing in anticipation of the Manitoba Dairy Ingredients plant, which could be operational as early as July.

“We are seeing production start to rise rapidly and of course that’s as a result of all the quota we put in and all of the incentive days,” Achtemichuk said, but added further production must still occur to meeting the impending demand increase.

Achtemichuk said in February the province was producing roughly 985,000 litres a day, and the market requires 1,070,000 litres a day.

“So we are below that, but we are starting to ramp up,” he said. “In terms of provincial quota utilization… as of February we are just slightly below 89 per cent utilized — and again we’ve had processing capacity challenges — so we’ve actually really started to ramp up in terms of quota increases as well.”

A new Parmalat processing plant is also being built in Transcona and should be online in May, Wiens added.

“It’s replacing an old plant in St. Boniface,” he said. “And this is another really good opportunity for Manitoba, because with this being a new plant it creates some new opportunities for Parmalat to make some specialty products there, which it is not doing now.”

While finding a home for increased milk production will prove challenging over the next few months as other provinces are no longer accepting Manitoba milk, Wiens said there is clearly an end in sight.

“The mood of Manitoba dairy farmers is different like day and night between now and a year ago,” he said. “Although we’re not there yet and the plant is not yet receiving milk… we do see a light at the end of the tunnel now, we see how we’re going to be back in full production.”

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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