Northern Communities to Benefit from Acquisition of Province's Fish-processing Facility

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
5 July 2007, at 1:00am

MANITOBA - Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Rosann Wowchuk today announced the sale of the provinces Leaf Rapids fish-processing facility to Northwest Co-operative Fisheries Ltd. (NWCFL), a co-operative venture operated by a board representing seven Aboriginal communities.

The sale, for the nominal sum of one dollar, supports a major business and job-creation opportunity for northern Manitoba.

“The transfer of this facility is a major investment in northern community development that will build on value-added processing and create sustainable jobs,” Wowchuk said. “This transfer also opens the door for a further substantial investment by the new owners to ensure this business continues to grow as a successful, viable operation.”

The minister noted the members of the co-op’s board are ideally suited to make sound business decisions based on their in-depth knowledge of the fish processing industry.

“Our members know the fishing industry well and appreciate the quality of freshly-caught fish and the importance of a sound production system,” said Mathias Sinclair, president of NWCFL. “This initiative is the opportunity we have been waiting for and we thank the minister for her support on this important project.”

Sinclair noted Northwest Co-operative Fisheries is also fortunate to have capable plant management with many years experience in the fish business and a sound accounting and bookkeeping system in place.

The fish-processing facility is owned by the province through the Co-operative Loans and Loans Guarantee Board and has been rented to Northwest Co-operative Fisheries since 1994.

NWCFL has invested significant funds in capital improvements to the plant. In 2005, it developed an approved quality-management program, fulfilling the final requirement for registration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

As a federally-registered fish-processing facility, the co-operative can upgrade the plant from a fish-packing and roe-processing operation to more value-added products including pickerel cheek processing, fresh packing for direct export, whole-product processing, machine filleting and processing of smoked-fish products. The minister noted that conversion to a value-added filleting plant will help to improve the economic viability of local fishing operations as members of the co-op gain rewards through dividend payments from the profits of the plant. These payments will then benefit the families and communities in the area.

The co-operative provides seasonal full-time employment for 15 employees and 220 Aboriginal commercial fisher members.

“This sale is an excellent example of the province’s Creating Opportunities initiative that includes northern communities in encouraging local ownership and decision-making, and supporting new employment opportunities,” said the minister. “The projected economic and job-creation benefits will have a direct positive impact on Manitoba’s northern communities.”