UCPR cancels food hub project

Par Raymond Berthiaume
UCPR cancels food hub project
food hub cancelled

During the regular meeting on March 22, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) received a report from Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Stéphane Parisien regarding the food hub. It was planned to be a federally inspected food processing plant that would process local produce and distribute it to the national market. Since it was first proposed in 2018, the UCPR had spent $282,912 attempting to plan, organize, and study the feasibility of such a venture.

According to Parisien’s report, there were several uncertainties to the food hub’s business plan that made it a bad idea. There was uncertainty about whether Prescott-Russell could produce enough fresh, packaged, and processed food to meet current market demand. Even if possible, the report noted, local farms and agri-food processors already have their own marketing networks, which makes a regional food hub redundant.

The last point in the report is that the UCPR covers a large area but has a low population concentration, which means that potential local customers are concentrated in a few dense areas, and the rest are spread out over rural communities.

Even if the UCPR went ahead with the food hub, local infrastructure isn’t equipped to support a large food production setup. Several municipalities don’t have high enough water capacity to keep up with production, and those that do would see a large impact on all other customers that also use the local water service, whether residential, commercial, or industrial. Also wastewater resulting from the production process would be huge, and the report was uncertain about whether a local municipality would be able to deal with all of it through its wastewater treatment system.

The report also noted that no regional government has ever administered a food processing facility, and so there are no examples of a business model to use as a guide. The report stated there were also problems finding an appropriate site for the hub with adequate electricity, natural gas, and road connections. The report also noted that none of the outside funding that the UCPR was counting on had been secured in the five years since the project began.

UCPR council voted to cancel the project for now. Parisien did note that an outside party may express interest in reviving the project at some point, so UCPR council will keep all materials and analyses created available for future reference.

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