By Nancy Kelly
The closure of O.H. Armstrong’s kill floor presents yet another obstacle to Nova Scotia’s beleaguered beef and pork producers, says Henry Visser, executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.
When he learned of the closure through a third-party e-mail, Visser was disappointed, but not entirely surprised.
“It speaks to the challenges that farmers and meat processors in this province have faced and continue to face,” said Visser.
He attributes the demise of Armstrong’s kill service back to the collapse of Nova Scotia’s hog industry in 2006, when low commodity prices, the high cost of feed, decreasing demand for Nova Scotia pork and lack of financial support from the government pushed the majority of pork producers out of the market.
“That created a sharp decline and it has never turned around.”
The Kings County Advertiser/Register broke news of the closure last week on www.kingscountynews.ca. General manager, Ted Devitt, confirmed at the time that the action was taken out of economic necessity.
“It is no longer economically feasible to operate a kill operation. We had to let it go,” he said.
Fourteen people lost their jobs Jan. 25 when the kill floor was closed. Those affected are a combination of skilled meat cutters and unskilled labour.
Devitt explained that Armstrong needed to slaughter 250 animals per week to meet their production quotas. The company – which is also a full-service food distributor catering to the food service industry in Nova Scotia - has been averaging only 15-30 animals a week from the local market and been forced to purchase meat from outside suppliers to meet production. With the closure of the kill floor, all meat will come from purchased sources.
The situation creates a problem for farmers who had been shipping to the Armstrong facility in Kingston, however, said Visser.
“They will have to look at shipping further away,” said Visser, noting that could present an additional financial burden for producers. In Nova Scotia, there are over 20 slaughter houses of various sizes, but not all service both beef and pork producers.
Kings West MLA Leo Glavine is planning to bring local producers together to “explore what may be possible” in the fall out of the closure. A meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Driftwood restaurant for the farm community, local livestock producers and representatives from the Federation of Agriculture.
“Are producers prepared to step in by becoming part of a local co-op? It is something that needs to talked about,” said Glavine.
He says the former Bowlby meat plant, located outside Greenwood, has excellent potential to house a cooperatively-owned and operated slaughter facility. The building has been idle since February 2010, when owner Glenn Bowlby declared bankruptcy.
The property, which includes two parcels - the processing building, outbuildings, equipment and 30 acres of land and the retail store and equipment- is still listed for sale by the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board.