Ontario backs frozen vegetable plant upgrades

The Canadian arm of French vegetable processor Bonduelle will put up almost $80 million to upgrade and expand three of its frozen vegetable plants in southwestern Ontario, with provincial government backing.

The province on Tuesday announced it will invest up to $8.5 million in Bonduelle Canada’s upgrades for its processing plants at Tecumseh, Ingersoll and Strathroy, Ont.

The investments will go to “adopt new technology to put new frozen vegetable products and packaging formats on the domestic and export markets, increase productivity, enhance food safety and increase exports.”

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Through the upgrades, the province said, Bonduelle expects the processing plants’ exports to the U.S. to increase by 55 per cent, or $34 million per year, over current levels.

“These upgrades will have a very positive impact on the supply chain and future sustainability, with increased purchases from 200 Ontario vegetable growers and a significant increase in exports of Ontario-grown and processed vegetables,” provincial Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said in a release.

The province and Bonduelle said the upgrades are expected to create 87 jobs at the three plants, while “retaining more than 700” others.

The three Ontario facilities came to Bonduelle in 2007 when it bought Aliments Carriere, a Quebec vegetable processing firm which had acquired the three plants separately between 1999 and 2006.

Bonduelle, whose canned and frozen vegetable brands in Canada include Arctic Gardens, Graves and Bonduelle, has since expanded aggressively in that sector here, taking over Family Tradition and Omstead Food in 2009.

The French firm also announced a deal in February to buy the Del Monte processed fruits and vegetables business in Canada from Conagra Brands for $43 million. That sale is expected to close later this month.

Ontario’s share of the funding for the plant upgrades will come from the Food and Beverage Growth Fund segment of its Jobs and Prosperity Fund.

The Food and Beverage Growth Fund backs “food, beverage and bio-product manufacturing projects that help create and retain jobs, increase domestic and export market access and enhance innovation and productivity.” — AGCanada.com Network

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