New potato processing plant announced for southern Alta.

A new potato processing facility in Lethbridge, to be built by Cavendish Farms, was announced Dec. 12 at Lethbridge city hall.

It is expected to create demand for an additional 9,000 acres of potatoes in southern Alberta.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said in a news release that the project, with an investment of at least $350 million, is among the largest in the city’s history and will create jobs and economic growth for the city and region.

Cavendish has operated a potato processing facility within the city since 2012, when it acquired the former Maple Leaf Foods plant in the city’s north side industrial park.  That acquisition was announced almost four years to the day of this one.

Options for expansion in the current location are limited, so the new Cavendish facility is slated to be built in the Sherring Industrial Park in the city’s northeast sector. The future of the existing Cavendish operation was not known at press time.

Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier was on hand for the announcement, as was Cavendish Farms president Robert K. Irving.

Carlier said the news illustrated his government’s aim to provide “the right conditions for jobs, economic growth and diversification.

“This historic private investment will create good jobs and opportunities for local farmers, and it will build on Lethbridge’s stellar reputation as a national hub of agri-food business innovation,” Carlier said in a news release before the official announcement.

The existing plant employs about 130 people.

The release indicated that the city and Cavendish would continue discussions on needed infrastructure upgrades to the industrial park to accommodate the project.

In addition to Cavendish, southern Alberta is home to two other potato plants. McCain’s and Lamb-Weston operate processing facilities near Coaldale and Taber, respectively.  At present, about 45,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the region annually. The Cavendish announcement would bring that total to about 50,000 acres of potatoes once the new plant is operating.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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