Province continues aid to struggling beef plant

P.E.I.'s Agriculture Minister says the government is still committed to keeping the Atlantic Beef Products plant financially afloat.

P.E.I.'s agriculture minister said Friday his government is still committed to keeping the Atlantic Beef Products plant financially afloat.

George Webster said the plant was doing a little better a few months ago, but is now on a downward slide again.

Management at the facility admit the plant is losing an average of about $200,000 a month. That has fueled speculation about its future.

Managers at the Atlantic Beef Products plant acknowledge that the plant is losing money, but say the investment is valuable to the rural economy. (CBC)

But according to Mike Nabuurs, the plant manager, the government's investment in the plant pays off.

He said rural communities would suffer "without farmers who are farming, and buying parts from local machinery dealers and paying mechanics to fix their equipment and paying growers to being animals to the plant."

He said there are important economic spin offs created by spending at the plant. "There's so many spin-off dollars that are being spun back into the economy by the investment that's being made in here."

Webster acknowledged the losses but said his government is firmly committed.

"There is losses there. There have been losses there. And we're trying to minimize those losses and go forward," he said.

Nabuurs said management is working to develop better marketing strategies. "We've got to look at some more things, maybe some value adding, trying to have a little more control over what we ultimately get – the price," he said.

He did, however, acknowledge the difficulty of taking on the high volume of national meat packers for a small plant.

"Everybody at this place is working their hardest to make sure that we're making the right decisions and to get as much out of the marketplace as we can and that takes a little longer than you sometimes would hope."

Webster assured that the premier supported the plant.

"The premier did say … we are going to maintain and sustain the beef plant. You know, we're going forward with it and we've made that commitment. We've trimmed a lot of things and we have a hamburger line in there now and we're trying to find ways for that plant to sustain itself."

But said he's hopeful the situation will turn around as new markets are developed.