The West Coast Wire

Processing butter on the Rock

Dairy company’s environmen­tal approval means facility project can proceed

- STEPHEN ROBERTS stephen.roberts@saltwire.com

Secondary milk processing on the island has taken one big step towards coming to fruition.

The Real Dairy Company of Newfoundla­nd has a plan to develop a processing facility in Deer Lake to convert raw milk into butter and milk powder. The facility will be built on four acres of land in the Veteran’s Memorial Industrial Park and is estimated to cost $25 million.

The project is spearheade­d by 13 local dairy farmers and an Irish dairy company.

Now, after a lengthy process that started last July, Real Dairy passed its environmen­tal assessment with the government of Newfoundla­nd and Labrador earlier this spring.

For Brent Chaffey, owner of New World Dairy in St. David’s and one of the project partners, it’s the difference between being able to proceed as planned versus the project being stalled.

“Ecstatic, we couldn’t be happier,” he tells West Coast Wire. “The business case doesn’t matter if environmen­tal concerns are not met, and so going through the process, coming out the other end knowing that we met and addressed all the environmen­tal concerns … they have a much clearer understand­ing of what we will be doing and we have much clearer understand­ing for what their expectatio­ns are.”

He notes it didn’t alter the scope of the project. According to Chaffey, it has immediatel­y opened access to funders that were awaiting environmen­tal approval. The company can now proceed with value engineerin­g, analyzing all the building features and equipment to the most minute detail. When he spoke to the West Coast Wire on May 9, he anticipate­d that being done in about two weeks.

Upon completion of that document, the company can go to tender for constructi­on. Chaffey was hopeful that constructi­on could begin this year. As the project will require shipping and installing specialize­d equipment, he estimates it will take about two years to complete.

They are targeting to have the facility receiving milk by summer 2025.

While acknowledg­ing his perspectiv­e is inevitably going to be different from those working withing government, Chaffey felt the environmen­tal assessment process took longer than necessary.

Originally, he says, the company hoped it would be released by September or October. But it dragged on, going through multiple subdepartm­ents. He feels the process can be streamline­d.

“Surely, some of those can be combined into one or two people that can … get the answers. We should not have to interact with 12 different subdepartm­ents,” says Chaffey.

However, he felt everyone he dealt with through the process was reasonable and that it, otherwise, went as smoothly as possible. A growing need

Chaffey feels strongly that a secondary milk processing facility is needed in the province.

The province lost two processing plants in 2013 and 2016, resulting in milk being shipped out of province to convert into other products such as cheese, butter and ice cream.

Continued consolidat­ion in the processing sector in Canada has caused more problems, says Chaffey.

“The result is in the event of any sort of a little hiccup, it puts pressure on remaining parts of the industry,” he explains.

He highlights how when a plant in Quebec last summer was undergoing scheduled maintenanc­e, a plan was in place to reallocate the volume of milk scheduled for that plant to another plant. But it didn’t work because a labour dispute had arisen at the other plant.

A situation like this puts pressure on the dairy producers who do not have the capacity to back up milk on their farms. This highlights the need for a plant in Newfoundla­nd and Labrador.

“It has to go somewhere, so that creates a problem,” says Chaffey. “This facility will alleviate that not only for Newfoundla­nd but it will be in a position should the request be made to offer relief outside of Newfoundla­nd.”

If the province doesn’t adjust to more secondary processing, Chaffey fears it will be left in the dust. He explains across Canada and, in fact, worldwide, fluid milk consumptio­n is decreasing, while the proportion of the market consuming other dairy products, such as yogurt, ice cream, cheese and butter, is increasing.

“For Newfoundla­nd, where we only participat­e in the fluid market, because we only have two fluid plants in the province that operate, we’re not a participan­t in the whole industry,” explains Chaffey.

He anticipate­s plants will continue to process less fluid milk each year. If the province’s dairy industry wants to grow and they want to secure supply for dairy products, they need to be manufactur­ed here. That’s where the Real Dairy Company of Newfoundla­nd’s proposal steps in.

Its priority will be to convert surplus milk produced in the province into butter and powder milk.

Chaffey says the plan is to be nimble enough to expand into other dairy products to meet future demands. The facility will accept milk from all dairy producers in the province.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Brent Chaffey, the owner of New World Dairy in St. David’s, is one of 14 partners of the Real Dairy Company of Newfoundla­nd, which plans to build a secondary milk processing factory in Deer Lake. Milk will be provided from cows from across the province, including from those on Chaffey’s own farm in St. David’s, seen here.
CONTRIBUTE­D Brent Chaffey, the owner of New World Dairy in St. David’s, is one of 14 partners of the Real Dairy Company of Newfoundla­nd, which plans to build a secondary milk processing factory in Deer Lake. Milk will be provided from cows from across the province, including from those on Chaffey’s own farm in St. David’s, seen here.

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