Strike at Agropur: 2 million liters of milk thrown away

At a time when food is more expensive than ever before, dairies have had to throw away two million liters of milk in just a few days due to the industrial dispute at the Agropur cheese factory.

“Apart from the economic side, the main motivation is to feed the world. There you throw away your milk, launches Vincent Rainville, co-owner of the farm JGL Rainville. In terms of motivation, it’s pretty ordinary.”

Workers at the Agropur cheese factory in Granby, which processes 10% of Quebec’s milk every day in the province, have been on an indefinite general strike since Wednesday morning.

This is forcing Quebec producers to find alternative solutions to have their milk processed and then sold in different forms.

According to Yanick Grégoire, spokesman for the Producteurs de lait du Québec, of the 70 million liters treated in Quebec in a week, two million were thrown away.

Vincent Rainville has already lost 8,000 liters, the equivalent of two working days.

Listen to Philippe-Vincent Foisy’s commentary on QUB radio:

“If things continue like this, there will be additional costs, so there will be a drop in income on the farm,” emphasizes the man whose company is based in Marieville in Montérégie.

In such a situation, according to Yanick Grégoire, farms have limited options to ensure their milk ends up in retail outlets.

“In Quebec, like in Canada, the processing capacities are already almost at their maximum,” he emphasizes.

Listen to Marc-André Leclerc’s interview with Bernard Cournoyer, adviser to the Democratic Union Headquarters, on Radio QUB:

If it’s not shipped to factories outside of Quebec or used as animal feed, it’s possible that the milk will then be used to create methane.

Surpluses also go into the pits and are used as fertilizer.

“We agree that this is a measure that is very shocking for producers who market milk to feed people,” stresses Mr Grégoire.

It’s also a loss of income that is used to cover the cost of equipment or to feed the cows, adds Mr Grégoire.

Nonetheless, any recorded losses are expected to be shared among producers.

Sylvain Charlebois.  expert

With kind approval

Sylvain Charlebois. expert

All in all, especially in times of inflation, it should be illegal to throw away these products, which are a “public good,” argues Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Laboratory for Agricultural and Food Analysis at Dalhousie University.

“We would force everyone to find new ways to store milk,” he says.

“If we keep the milk [au lieu de le gaspiller]the market price is lowered […] then the producers would earn less money”, specifies Mr Charlebois.

Remember that in late June the Canadian Dairy Commission announced a 2.5% increase in the cost of any product, be it yogurt, cheese or butter.

Agropur pointed this out protocol be aware of the consequences of the conflict and hope for a quick solution.

For his part, the president of the workers’ union of the cheese factory, Daniel Chaput, underlined yesterday that he would like the current working hours of the workers to be maintained so that work can resume.

  • Quebec dairy sales reached $2.864 billion in 2021, up 4.1% year-on-year.

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