Canada's Agropur Cooperative has confirmed that it and the Quebec Goat Milk Producers “have agreed to continue the talks begun a few weeks ago” and will “continue assessing the options on the table.” But it has not specified what the talks or options refer to.
The Quebec Goat Milk Producers was formerly known as the Quebec Goat Producers' Union. It’s a provincial union that represents all goat milk producers in Quebec.
At the end of September, Agropur announced plans to close its plant in Saint-Damase, Montérégie, and revealed that it is the only Agropur plant that makes goat cheese. It will slow its operations starting in January and officially close in April 2019.
The plant employs about 110 workers who will be offered other Agropur employment opportunities or severance packages. The soft cheese manufacturing will be integrated into operations at the Saint-Hyacinthe plant and cheese conversion will be transferred to the Beauceville plant.
At the time of the announcement, Agropur said “Major investments were needed at the plant. In view of the inability to reach a long-term agreement with the plant's employees and the need to honour commitments to customers, Agropur had no choice but to reorganize its investments.”
In 2017 Agropur reached $6.4bn in sales with the support of 8,300 employees at 39 plants throughout North America. However, it has felt the effects of the recent North American tariff disputes and said it was disappointed with the announcement of the new US Mexico Canada agreement (USMCA).
René Moreau, president of Agropur, lamented that the Canadian dairy industry was being used as a ‘bargaining chip’ in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
"Canada has given in again and this will have a major impact on our members in five provinces and on the entire Canadian dairy industry. The constant changes to trade agreements to which Canada is a party is increasing the level of uncertainty and greatly complicating long-term planning of our investments in our Canadian facilities," he said.
With the financial squeeze resulting in the loss of the Saint-Damase plant, Agropur may be looking to the Quebec Goat Milk Producers to fill its goat milk supply needs.
According to Agropur, “The two parties also signed a confidentiality agreement whereby they undertook not to publicly disclose the options under discussion. Talks will continue in the coming weeks and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.”