Agropur halts talks with Quebec goat dairy producers

Agropur has gone back to Plan A for the fate of a major Quebec soft cheese processing plant after halting talks with the province’s goat dairy farmer association.

Canada’s biggest dairy co-operative had announced in September last year it would close the former Fromagerie Damafro plant at Saint-Damase, Que. in April this year, but delayed those plans pending talks with the Producteurs de lait de chevre du Quebec.

The company, in a release Monday, said it has “concluded the talks begun a year ago” with the goat producer group. Agropur said a “good-faith effort was made to find a solution but none can be implemented.”

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Agropur said Monday it will accept goats’ milk at the plant until the end of December as agreed with the PLCQ, but now plans to shut the plant permanently in March 2020.

Details of talks with the PLCQ weren’t mentioned in Monday’s release. Agropur said a “confidentiality agreement signed by both parties prevents them from publicly disclosing the options that were discussed.”

However, PLCQ president Christian Dube was quoted Wednesday by La Terre de chez nous, the ag news arm of Quebec’s Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), as saying the producer group didn’t know much about what alternatives the company was considering.

Dube, for one, told La Terre he has now begun to cancel expansion plans at his farm, not far from the St-Damase plant, and that PLCQ members would now see if they could arrange contracts to supply goat dairy processors elsewhere.

Agropur bought Fromagerie Damafro in 2013 for an undisclosed sum from the Bonnet family of cheesemakers, who came to Quebec from the Brie region of France. Damafro had been billed as a leading processor of goats’ milk in both Quebec and Canada since 2005.

In 2018, however, Agropur said “major investments” would be needed to keep the St-Damase plant open. It also cited “inability to reach a long-term agreement with the plant’s employees” as well as “the need to honour commitments to customers.”

Mario Maisonneuve, president of the plant’s TUAC (Travailleurs et Travailleuses unis de l’alimentation et du commerce) Local 1991-P, said in 2018 there was “no doubt” Agropur favoured closing the St-Damase plant before bargaining had even begun. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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