January 25, 2010 / 6:36 PM / 8 years ago

Canada blizzard leads pork plant to cancel shifts

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A blizzard brought high winds and dumped 35 cm (13.8 inches) of snow in parts of the grain-growing region of Western Canada, interrupting meat processing at one large packer and slowing grain handling.

The storm left 30 to 35 cm of snow in western Saskatchewan, the country’s top crop-growing province and 20 to 25 cm in eastern Saskatchewan during the weekend, said Sandy Massey, meteorologist with Environment Canada. Strong winds reduced visibility and resulted in the closure of several major highways.

Maple Leaf Foods canceled two shifts at its Brandon, Manitoba plant as the blizzard prevented delivery of hogs. The company will make up the shifts later in the week, said company spokeswoman Jeanette Jones.

“There would be a minimal impact at this point,” she said.

The packer canceled its second kill shift on Monday and its second cut shift on Tuesday, Jones said. It was not clear how much production volume was affected.

Maple Leaf shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange were down 1 percent at C$10.80 early Monday afternoon.

Staff at some Saskatchewan grain elevators could not get to work, resulting in minor grain-handling disruptions, said John Lyons, spokesman for the Wheat Board, which sells Western Canada’s wheat and malted barley.

“It might be at most a one to two-day delay for some things,” Lyons said. “No big impact.”

Lyons said he’s not aware of any slowdown in rail service or impact at ports.

The blizzard was moving through southern Manitoba on Monday and had dropped 15 to 20 cm of snow on the provincial capital of Winnipeg during the weekend, Massey said.

Strong winds of 54 km per hour (34 miles per hour) gusting to 67 kph around Winnipeg reduced visibility for highway drivers. The temperature was minus 14 Celsius (6.8 Fahrenheit) and dropping at mid-morning on Monday.

Massey said the blizzard should leave Manitoba sometime on Monday afternoon.

Spokespersons for Viterra, Canada’s biggest grain handler, as well as Cargill, a grain handler and beef packer, said they were not aware of any immediate impact on their Western Canada facilities.

Farmers are unlikely to deliver harvested crop to grain handlers during a blizzard, but ICE canola futures traders said it would not affect the market because farmer sales were slow anyway.

($1=$1.06 Canadian)

Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Alden Bentley

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