By Tim Kalinowski
Signing a three year deal with Lantic Sugar gives her producers what they want most, says Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers— certainty.
“We feel by signing a two-year contract extension it provides our growers with assurances for the next three years,” she says.
“It also provides our plant with assurances for the next three years so they can forward-sell their product; so overall we just think it provides that stability to the industry.
“We are also showing all our stakeholders the sugar beet industry is going to be around for a long time to come.”
Garner-Skiba admits ASBG did make a few concessions this time on extraction guarantees, but her members felt it was for the greater good.
“We were at the negotiating table understanding the factory needs oxygen; that they need to invest in that plant or we can’t have a sustainable industry. So that did mean there were some concessions the growers made in the short term, but long term we feel it is a good contract because it does provide that stability.”
According to Garner-Skiba NAFTA did loom large in her members’ minds when coming to an understanding with Lantic; especially because no new framework for that trade agreement has yet been announced.
“We have our eye very carefully on the NAFTA negotiations,” she confirms. “We are providing feedback continuously to the federal government in regards to those negotiations, because it will impact our growers.
“Our portion of the export market is around that 30,000-40,000 tonnes of sugar. So NAFTA does really effect us.”
While the announced closure of another long-time food-processing stalwart in southeast Alberta, Spitz, shook the sense of certainty for many in the local agriculture industry, including some ASBG members, admits Garner-Skiba, it did not affect negotiations with Lantic.
“Because we have got that last remaining sugar plant that can provide that 100 per cent Canadian sugar source, there is no other option (for Lantic).
“Whereas with Spitz, they have other processors that can supply that Canadian product.
“With this partnership between the producers and the processor, there is going to be significant investment made into this plant, which does give us that confidence long term the industry is going to be around.”
Garner-Skiba says there is one thing local sugar buyers can do to increase that sense of certainty even more: Show support for the Taber plant by choosing their preferred sugar very carefully.
“I think the thing we are trying to educate people about is when they are buying their sugar, under the Lantic Sugar/ Roger’s brand, that they look for that black product stamp on it that starts with a 22, because that does mean it is coming from the Taber plant,” she says.
“That differentiates it from the Vancouver plant and the Montreal plant, because if they find that 22 on it they are actually supporting over 200 local farm families.”