Connect with us


Agropur’s Quebec dairy cooperative model exported to Ukraine



(Krasne) The cows on Lyuba Pastushok’s farm are like her “stubborn children”, she says in Ukrainian while walking among her herd.

While there were only five animals on his small family farm in Holoskovychi, a rural community an hour and a half east of Lviv in western Ukraine, the herd now numbers 25. cows, six of which she bought after her country was invaded by Russian forces.

Bundled up with a scarf tied over her head on this cold day, the Ukrainian matriarch introduces each cow by name, her voice filled with pride.

She credits her success to creating a Quebec-style co-op in her community. In addition, a new Canadian dairy plant in the area will likely help the local industry grow even further.

This project has become an unlikely symbol of resistance against the Russian invasion.

Russia makes life difficult for Ukrainian farmers, denounces Mme Pastushok through an interpreter during an interview in his farmhouse kitchen.

“But that doesn’t stop us from growing. We are who we are: Ukrainians,” she says proudly.

The $3 million dairy plant, funded by Global Affairs Canada, will produce milk, yogurt, sour cream and cheeses from milk from local dairy cooperatives. These cooperatives will also participate in the management of the plant, which will employ 30 to 40 people.

Construction was already well underway when war broke out and disrupted all aspects of life in the now beleaguered country last year.

Investors have hesitated before embarking on a project in a conflict zone, underlines Camil Côté, project director for SOCODEVI, the Montreal-based development agency that is leading the project.

The invasion forced a pause of about three months during the work, until Canada offered another 2 million to restart the machine.

“Like all of Ukraine, we survived the winter,” Côté said in an interview from Nicaragua.

“We had some dangerous situations near the factory,” adds Andriy Blinovskyy, who manages the project on behalf of a local dairy cooperative society called Nabil.

“There was a missile explosion near the factory, when the electrical transformer station was destroyed, maybe 10 kilometers from the factory,” he explains.

This explosion, which occurred at the end of last year, forced workers to continue work throughout the winter without heating, using a generator for electricity.

When operational, the plant will mainly supply the Lviv region with local products. Brand new equipment and milk tanks feature Canadian flags.

“We feel that this factory is ours. It’s our country, our home, our family,” said Pastushok.

The success of the Quebec model

SOCODEVI imported the Quebec dairy cooperative model to Ukraine nearly 10 years ago. It allows local producers who own only a few cows to group together to negotiate better prices.

“The needs in Ukraine are very similar to what they were in Canada 50 or 60 years ago,” explains SOCODEVI program manager Erin Mackie.

“Farmers needed to join forces to succeed in generating better income for themselves. »

Ukrainian farmers were initially hesitant to engage in this project, as the cooperative model brought back memories of state-run operations under the Soviet Union (USSR).

SOCODEVI however explained to them that the idea behind this union remained democratic and capitalist. The model is largely inspired by the Quebec cooperative Agropur, which is the largest dairy cooperative in Canada.

“That’s how Agropur started, with a small cooperative where we process milk,” recalls Céline Delhaes, who sits on the cooperative’s board of directors.

This way, it is much easier for farmers to negotiate fair prices as a group than individually negotiating with large companies to process and sell their milk, says Delhaes.

Mme Delhaes traveled to Ukraine several times before the COVID-19 pandemic to help local farmers and guide them through the administrative aspect of setting up their cooperatives.

One thing leading to another, the Ukrainian programs took off, as more and more farmers, like Lyuba Pastushok, chose to join the adventure.

“People started selling cows. Some because of their illness, while young people went to work abroad. It has become very expensive to work the land,” says Pastushok.

She hopes more local farmers will join her.

“We must unite. As they say: a single man on the ground is not worth an army. »

Erin Mackie of SOCODEVI adds that the goal is to create a national movement in Ukraine, in partnership with the Canadian dairy industry. According to her, the funding provided by Canada shows that the country has faith in Ukraine.

“It shows confidence in the Ukrainian people, confidence that the country will overcome the challenges it faces,” she said.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *