Northwest Premium Meat Co-op Looking for Help With Debt
Coop board to meet with Northern Trust officials
The Northwest Premium Meat Cooperative is deep in debt -- and is looking for help to survive. The Abattoir cost about a million dollars to build, and although the operating cost is being met, the debt remains from the building the facility. On Wednesday, the Co-op is meeting with the Northern Development Initiative Trust to discuss their financial situation.
The Abattoir in Smithers is the only resource west of Vanderhoof that is a license inspected slaughter facility, meaning farmers from the Bulkley Valley to the north coast are coming to Smithers, to have their beef, pork, lamb and now rabbits or chickens slaughtered.
NWPM chair Paul Davidson says losing the facility will have a large impact on the region: “We have a number of farmers who go to Farmers Market, and in Prince Rupert and so on, so they've invested a lot of time and effort to build these markets and if our inspection facility closes their only option to sell in the local sales market like is to truck their animals to Vanderhoof the next nearest inspected facility and go back to the way things were where 90 percent of the cattle were shipped out of the feeds locks to Alberta or other places in BC."
Since 2009 the abattoir has been operating on a temporary basis with the Bulkley Valley Credit Union, but the grace period has now come to a close. As of right now, the Co-op is about 760 thousand dollars in debt, resulting in the closure of the processing facility in Telkwa a few years a ago.
NWPM Co-op Board member Tenley Dahlie says “We've got a very efficient team there, they work very hard they only do full days of slaughter, we got it as efficiently as it can be run, we just need to run it for more days, so it's that debt that remains and reduced it by selling off what we can, we can cover about half the debt by increasing the through put about double.”
Dahlie says a regional processing facility benefits more than just the area's farmers: “A lot more restaurants are specializing in a local product and promoting it, and that is part of their business that is part of their difference.”
Davidson says the co-op also new farmers too, “This facility is critical for the new generation of farmers moving in, the generation is in smaller 5 or 10 acre farms and that you know the cost of buying land and that thing, that's the only way you start with farming and this inspected facility gives people the opportunity to grow chickens, pigs for local sale and gets them started in the Agricultural Business.”
On Wednesday the NWPM Co-op will be going to see the board of directors of the NDIT to ask them to forgive a portion of the debt, and work in partnership with them. Dahlie says “We've certainly go the town on side and the regional district.
Davidson says you can show your support by “Buy local beef, talk to your producers and if you feel up to it write a letter to the directors to show your support and we will collect them it just shows everyone that's behind the project. And ask your local producer if it's inspected”
To find more information go to www.northwestpremiummeat.com.