Red tape ties up lamb co-op

Provincial approvals needed | The co-op hopes to increase market share for domestic lamb

The Canadian Lamb Producers Co-operative was expecting to market sheep this fall, but regulatory delays have pushed plans back until next year.

“Our goal was we were going to be functioning by the fall of 2012. Now, with the delay, we’ve told producers early in 2013,” said Gord Schroeder, general manager of the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board.

The co-op is waiting for regulatory approval from provincial authorities before it can proceed on the project.

“It’s a national co-operative and we need to (satisfy) the criteria in every province for selling shares,” Schroeder said. “Before we can go to producers and start signing contracts and selling shares, we need to have some securities commissions approvals.”

The co-op plans to sell Canadian branded lamb to retailers and consumers in an effort to gain market share from imported lamb, mostly from Australia and New Zealand.

It says on its website that the market for lamb products is worth $600 million a year and could double if lamb is consistently available at grocery stores and butcher shops.

Only active sheep producers will be able to join the co-op, which will have its head office in Saskatoon.

Terry Ackerman, the former general manager of Organic Meadow Co-op in Ontario who is setting up the new lamb co-op, said sheep producers are positive about the concept.

“Over 150 lamb producers have signed and submitted their (information request) forms and are waiting to purchase membership and investment shares,” he said in a Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council publication.

“Our plan is to recruit 650 producers in the next 24 to 35 months.”

The co-op intends to pay its members a price premium of five cents per pound over prices in Ontario. It also plans to pay western and eastern Canadian producers the same price.

Western Canadian farmers typically receive a $20 to $25 freight discount on lambs shipped to Toronto and other major markets in Central Canada.

“Our feasibility studies have been done on a national pricing system. It doesn’t matter where you live in the country, you’re going to get paid the same price,” Schroeder said.

A federally inspected slaughter facility in the West will be needed to offset the discount, but the co-op doesn’t plan to build a plant.

Schroeder said details on how the co-op will offer a consistent price in spite of the shipping differential will come in the near future when the co-op begins selling memberships.

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