Maple Leaf Foods to open $660m poultry site

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

Maple Leaf Foods to open $660m poultry site
Canadian processor Maple Leaf Foods has announced plans to build a CA$660m poultry facility in Ontario.

Funded by Maple Leaf Foods and with investments from the governments of Ontario and Canada, the new 640,000ft2​ facility is expected to be one of the most technologically advanced poultry processing plants in the world, with leading-edge food safety, environmental and animal welfare processes and technologies.

Maple Leaf Foods has identified high demand for raised-without-antibiotics and halal chicken products, where it claims to have the leading national brands. This new facility will address constraints in Maple Leaf's current Ontario network, enhance operating efficiencies, and expand its value-added product mix and capacity to meet growing consumer demand.

Construction at the site is expected to begin in the spring of 2019, with start-up planned to commence in the second quarter of 2021. The new plant will initially support more than 1,450 direct full and part-time jobs, with additional job growth as production volumes increase over time. Maple Leaf will work closely with local agencies to recruit and train people and provide skilled jobs in a safe and inclusive workplace. Construction is expected to generate approximately 300 jobs, with almost 85% of project expenditures supporting domestic construction and installation contractors. The facility is expected to create a further 1,400 indirect jobs in the supplies and services sector and generate an estimated $1.2bn of annual economic activity once it is fully operational.

Production from the company’s three sub-scale and aging plants in Ontario will eventually be consolidated into the new facility. Its plant in St Marys is expected to close by late 2021, while its plants in Toronto and Brampton are expected to close by mid- to late 2022. Each of these plants is 50 to 60 years old, with location, footprint and infrastructure constraints that limit opportunities to expand and modernise to meet growing market demand. Maple Leaf will work with local communities and government to find alternate uses for the facilities when they eventually close.

“This world-class facility will enable Maple Leaf to meet the steadily growing consumer demand for premium, value-added poultry products, and strengthen Canada’s food system,” ​said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. "It will incorporate leading-edge food safety, environmental and animal care technologies that advance our vision to be the global leader in sustainable protein. This is a historic investment in the Canadian poultry sector, providing significant stakeholder and economic benefits and ensuring that Canada has sufficient domestic processing capacity to meet forecast poultry production and demand.

“We deeply regret the impact that these eventual closures will have on our people and communities,” ​said McCain. “While these closures are several years away, we are informing our people well in advance, allowing us to openly communicate and support them through this long-term transition. We will provide them with job opportunities at the new facility and other Maple Leaf plants, and services to help them eventually secure new employment.”​  

As well as the government funding, Maple Leaf Foods is receiving a CA$8m loan from the AgriInnovate Fund. As part of the federal funding agreement, Maple Leaf will invest a further $5m over the next five years on projects that accelerate adoption of advanced manufacturing and production technologies and support its goal to reduce its environmental footprint by 50% by 2025.

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