Sollio Cooperative Group posted strong fiscal gains in 2020 despite a global pandemic, harvest woes, processing closures and rail strikes.
Amid turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghislain Gervais, SCG president, said operational agility proved to be the cooperative’s strength.
Why it matters: Sollio Agriculture, formerly La Coop federee, has become a leading supplier of agriculture retail products in Ontario with acquisitions over the past few years.
“Consolidated sales exceeded $8 billion, with earnings before patronage refund and income tax reaching $201 million.”
Despite challenges to the food service and agriculture sectors, there were wins for SCG during the 2019-20 year, said Gervais.
“The super strain on the supply chain highlighted the importance of encouraging buying local and increasing food self-sufficiency while developing exports,” he said.
Gaétan Desroches, SCG chief executive officer, said the positive performance, in part, is due to the food division Olymel.
SGC made strong pork exports to Asia, particularly China, in 2020, following an outbreak of African swine fever in China that destroyed the pork market and drove up meat margins.
The bump in demand and exports spurred the announcement of a $9 million renovation at the Olymel plant in Ange-Gardien, Que., to facilitate a second shift starting next September. The investment is expected to increase capacity to 35,000 hogs a week, with a total capacity potential of 50,000 if the market demand allows, and increased freezing capacity.
“We are also in the process of starting a second shift in our Red Deer (Alta.) plant,” said Rejean Nadeau, Olymel CEO. “The demand is increasing both in Japan and all of southeastern Asia.”
Nadeau said the next challenge is dealing with the shortage of labour, mainly in Quebec, to fill the positions created by adding a second shift to the processing plants.
“There is a shortage of labour, and we work hard to find people to fill the operation,” he said.
The high demand and export opportunities balanced out the devastating impact of COVID-19 on food services, which all but decimated food supply opportunities in the hotel, restaurant and institutional sectors.
Sollio Agriculture, SCG’s agriculture division, suffered setbacks in the grain sector that impacted export potential and trade position in the spring of 2020 and a drop in ethanol demand due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Lastly, soybean marketing was badly affected by the geopolitical situation with negative impacts on exports,” said Desroches.
SCG’s plan for 2020-2025 calls for the integration of prosperity and sustainability concepts on a national and international level.
In June, SCG launched the From Us to You initiative, in collaboration with 16 other agricultural cooperatives from its network.
Local food banks and organizations focused on helping people in need benefitted from a donation of about $450,000 worth of foodstuffs and $100,000 in cash through the initiative.
Additionally, SCG pledged to integrate the United Nations’ six sustainable development objectives into its new strategic plan.