Friday, April 4, 2014

Toronto slaughterhouse files for creditor protection

TORONTO - A long-time Toronto pork processor that employs 750 people filed for protection Thursday under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Quality Meat Packers Ltd. and Toronto Abattoirs Ltd. said the move — which grants them an initial 30-day protection period from creditors — will give them “better opportunity to evaluate and pursue restructuring alternatives.”

“It’s not a bankruptcy,” vice-president of marketing Jim Gracie said. “It’s giving us time to look at restructuring or looking at our operation.”

“So at this time, there’s not an impact on the employees,” he said. “They all came in to work today, they’ve been working, and we’re going to look at our options.”

Gracie cited “recent volatility in the market and the rapid rise in hog prices that are a management challenge” as the reason behind the move.

A statement from the companies said they are “making every effort to continue operations with a financially viable business model.”

The 83-year-old company operates out of the King St. W.-Bathurst St. site of the original Toronto Municipal Abbatoir, producing pork for domestic and export use.

Amy Cronin, board chair at Ontario Pork – which represents 1,600 pork producers in the province – says the announcement came as a “surprise” to the industry.

“It’s extremely unfortunate,” she said.

The processing sector is a “challenging business,” Cronin added.

A virus – porcine epidemic diarrhea – that hit U.S. pigs last year means fewer pigs to fill demand, she pointed out.

“That’s one of the reasons why the prices would go up,” she said.

Quality Meat is a member of the Canadian Meat Council, whose spokesman Ron Davidson acknowledged processors “are in a squeeze right now.”

“The bottom line is supply and demand because the prices are now rising,” Davidson said, adding there’s “a limit to how much you can increase the price at the retail counter.”
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