VICTORIA – A sudden influx of funding from the $90 million provincial Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program resulted in the submission of several abattoir applications to the rural economic recovery stream in October.
CERIP is providing fully funded provincial grants to support economic resilience, tourism, heritage and urban and rural economic development projects in communities impacted by COVID-19. Each application has a grant cap of $1 million. The deadline for applications was October 29.
Some applicants heard of the funding the week before the deadline and scrambled to get the necessary budget and supporting documents together at one of the busiest times of the year.
“The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association has applied for $1 million to build a Class A abattoir in the Nicola Valley through the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. It is our understanding that details of the program were released on October 1 but this funding was brought to the attention of the SSMPA on October 20, nine days before the application deadline,” says SSMPA founder Julia Smith of Blue Sky Ranch in Merritt.
“Fortunately, we had already undertaken informal discussions with the Shackan Indian Band about working together to build such a facility and had recently completed a detailed business strategy, so we were able to put an extensive application together on short notice and obtain a Letter of Intent from the band,” she says. “In addition, we were able to garner over 50 letters of support from local farmers and ranchers, community members and affiliated associations and industries, as well as municipal, regional, provincial and federal government representatives.”
Consumer demand for local meat has been growing steadily, with demand boosted by the COVID-19 crisis. This represents an opportunity to revitalize rural economies through the growth and development of the small-scale meat industry and meets the conditions of the funding.
Many livestock producers ship to Alberta for finishing and processing in federal plants. Livestock producers find it a challenge to scale their businesses to a profitable size due to bottlenecks at the abattoirs.
The proposed Nicola Valley community abattoir would provide custom slaughter and cut and wrap services to local farmers and ranchers. It would be a government-inspected Class A facility able to provide a full range of services for red meat processing.
Producers are currently hamstrung by a serious lack of processing capacity.
“The proposed community abattoir would be a first-class facility that would produce the highest quality meat and value-added products for BC consumers while creating numerous employment opportunities for the local community,” says Smith. “It will also enable local farmers and ranchers to grow their businesses and create greater opportunities to maximize profit.
If successful, SSMPA hopes to begin construction on the facility in early 2021 with a goal of being operational in time for the busy fall/winter season. (The program requires projects to complete by March 31, 2023.)
Mobile abattoir proposed
Another funding application through the program is for a mobile abattoir that would serve Galiano, Mayne and Pender Islands. It would be multi-species and self-contained with potable water, a generator, processing area and cooler. If successful, the project will be a cooperative effort with farmers and farming groups on the southern Gulf Islands to increase employment, increase farm revenue, encourage increased livestock numbers and farm viability, and accelerate economic recovery and enhance regional food security.
While applicants believe the program is a step in the right direction, they also believe that regulatory changes and more support and opportunities such as this are needed to remove barriers and realize the industry’s potential throughout the province.