Sunday, February 12, 2012

Millbank dairy gets ok

Esskay Dairy Ltd., which plans to process lassi, a type of yogourt, at the dairy in Millbank, has gained the approval of the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.

The tribunal sided with the agriculture ministry director who granted the company a licence to rebuild the facility under the authority of the Ontario Milk Act.

The Ontario Dairy Council filed the appeal, arguing that any milk going to the new plant would decrease supplies to its processing-company members who are already on rations and unable to get as much milk as they want.

The tribunal said it appreciates that concern, but noted that the milk act wants a regulatory regime that stimulates the industry and expands opportunities for employment.

Azad Damani of Kitchener told a public hearing the tribunal conducted last fall that he intends to hire 15 to 20 people, to purchase up to 400,000 litres of cows’ milk and to blend it with sheep milk he will buy from Quality Sheep Milk and about 40,000 litres of goats’ milk, including supplies already lined up with Ed Zehr who farms near Newton.

Damani said the product he intends to produce, which is a type of yogourt, is unique. Tom Kane, speaking for the Ontario Dairy Council, argued that other processors are already supply lassi to ethnic-community customers in the Toronto area.

The tribunal noted that Esskay Dairy will be well outside of Toronto, that it has the potential to increase the demand for milk and to displace some imports.

It also noted that if and when Esskay wants to expand to more than 500,000 litres, it will need government approval to build an addition to the plant and the Ontario Dairy Council will have another chance then to raise concerns about milk supplies.

Kane also outlined existing and planned supply-management policies that Esskay might use to get the milk it requires without cutting into allocations to existing processing plants.

“All of the benefits, (outlined during the public hearing) if realized, would advance the legislative purpose of stimulating, increasing, and improving the producing of milk within Ontario,” the tribunal wrote in its decision posted recently on its website.

“ While many of the benefits are only potential, such is the case with any new business and for any new entrant into the dairy industry.

“Only time will tell whether those benefits are realized, but denying Esskay Dairy's application for a permit, as requested by ODC, does nothing to stimulate, increase, or improve the producing of milk within Ontario,” the tribunal wrote.

Damani could not be reached for comment or an estimate of when production might begin.