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Feds announce $10 million in support of Conestoga Meats

Conestoga Meats was the recipient last week of $10 million in federal loans. Among those in attendance at the Breslau facility were Kitchener Centre MP Raj Saini, president of Conestoga Meats Arnold Drung, Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau, Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger, Kitchener South-Hespeler MP Marwan Tabbara and Cambridge MP Bryan May. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

Breslau’s Conestoga Meat Packers was the latest recipient of federal largesse after a visit from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food last week. Speaking at the pork-producing facility on April 25, Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a federal contribution of up to $10 million to the cooperative, part of a broader initiative to support Canadian agriculture in global markets.

“Today, I am pleased to announce a federal investment of up to $10 million to help Conestoga Meats capture new markets around the world while driving our economy here at home,” said Bibeau. “The investment under the AgriInnovate program will help the company adopt new technologies to help increase production, and capture exciting new export opportunities in Asia.”

The funding, which comes in the form of an interest-free loan repayable over the next ten years, will see Conestoga Meats expand its facility and production capabilities, and add another 200 new employees to its workforce of more than 1,000. The project will also allow for the adoption of an advanced cooling system that will allow the company to reach markets farther abroad, said the minister.

“Conestoga Meats will be able to install a state-of-the-art cooling system developed right here in Ontario at the University of Guelph,” said Bibeau. “The funding will also allow Conestoga Meats to upgrade its existing facilities to increase production.”

“It’s a combination of both,” elaborated Arnold Drung, president of Conestoga Meats, about the expansion project. “There’s an actual physical building, and then there’s significant equipment, and a lot of the equipment that was put in specifically for the Asian market, so for Japan.”

“[The cooling system] allows us to get an extended shelf life, because we do ship the product to Japan vacuum-packed,” said Drung. “It will allow us to more than double the business that we’re doing in Japan over time.”

Investment and interest in the Pacific states has been spurred on by the recent implementation this year of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The free trade agreement, which counts Japan amongst its 11 members, is expected by the federal government to offer new opportunities for Canadian agricultural products in the global economy.

“The expanded facility will also help producers take advantage of the trade agreement we have concluded with Europe and the countries on the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” noted Bibeau. “The CPTPP will bring Canada’s pork industry at the front of the line in key markets like Japan.

“This investment is one more way that our government is working hard to keep Canada’s pork industry strong and growing.”

The investment in Conestoga Meats was made through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which is providing up to $1 billion to boost Canada’s agricultural industry in foreign markets. The AgriInnovate Program, run under partnership banner, is available to Canadian agriculture companies that use innovative new technologies that are brought to market. The maximum the program can offer is $10 million in interest-free funding, with a 10-year repayment schedule.

Conestoga Meats is a fully farmer-owned co-operative, and the second largest pork producer in Ontario.

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