Simplot announced today it will build a new $120 million potato french fry processing plant in Portage La Prairie, MB, Canada, over the next two years to enhance its North American eastern markets for processed production.
Fred Zerza, Simplot spokesman, in Boise, ID, said the plant would be designed to join the company's 11 other plants located in strategic sites around the globe.
Zerza said the latest investment represents its third in Manitoba. It built a nitrogen fertilizer-manufacturing complex in Brandon in 1967, and co-owns a processing plant in Carberry with Nestle.
The Portage plant will be Simplot's 12th, joining a lineup that includes four plants in Idaho, two in Washington, one in Oregon, one in North Dakota, two in Australia, and one in China.
"It diversifies our production base," Zerza said. "We have seven plants in the Pacific Northwest and only two in the Midwest."
Enticing the construction project was an $8 million water and sewer infrastructure investment being made by the province of Manitoba. The plant is expected to create 230 jobs and the potential for hundreds more in spin-off industries.
The plant is being designed to process 25 million kilograms of potatoes a year, with a maximum capacity of 135 million kilograms.
While the plant will initially cost about $120 million, the total outlay for the project is expected to reach $150 million in infrastructure and other expenditures.
Manitoba government spokesman Ronuk Mohda said the economic benefit could translate into about 1,600 jobs in construction throughout the region over the next few years, 230 permanent jobs at the new potato plant, and at least 500 jobs in support of farm-related industries.
Gary Slovik of Portage, speaking for the Potato Marketing Association of North America at the recent PGI meeting in Boise, ID, said that Manitoba has 900-1,200 seed and process growers. He said many growers there lost production because the area was mainly dryland production until recently when extensive pivot irrigation systems were installed.
Slovik said with irrigation, Manitoba growers now average 250 cwt. He said there are no fresh-pack plants in Manitoba, allowing the processors to control the industry. Recently growers there have been having trouble with diseases in storage, he added.