Editor: The decision by McCain Foods to close their Borden processing plant is bad news indeed especially for the 121 employees but what a difference in the manner in which McCain Foods is dealing with the realities of the french-fry business as compared to Cavendish Farms.
In a previous letter where we objected to the Cavendish Farms bullying tactics around deep-water wells, we observed that Cavendish Farms were displaying all the wrong business partnership characteristics and it was time for P.E.I. to dismiss economic threats and start building upon our strengths and opportunities with new business partners
Let us review the actions of the McCain Foods management so far: They have apparently been struggling with the economics of a declining french-fry business for years; they did not seek government handouts or concessions and refused all government enticements to continue processing; they cited three non-accusing reasons for their decision — the declining North American demand for french fries, the strong Canadian dollar impacting exporting costs and lagging plant efficiency. No hint of blaming the government or their employees; they are clearly returning some of their past financial gains into softening the impact of lost jobs within the local community; there is no statutory obligation for them to provide a $2-million fund for employee retraining.
We should note the McCain business in P.E.I. is not just processing potatoes; it also includes supplying table-stock and seed potatoes for markets in Canada and around the world. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for our government and McCain Foods to jointly expand these activities.
Adversity and change often signal reality and force new directions. Should we not interpret the McCain Foods processing closure as the first tangible reality check? Could this be both the stimulation and basis for a series of government-sponsored pilot projects to set a new direction for the P.E.I. potato industry and start the overdue P.E.I. migration away from the ever demanding, but declining, french-fry business?
Roger and Jan King,