State

McCain expansion could benefit Aroostook potato growers

AROOSTOOK COUNTY – McCain Foods, the largest buyer of potatoes in Aroostook County, is planning a major expansion at its potato products factory in Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick, that could benefit growers in Aroostook.

McCain Foods will be investing approximately $50 million (U.S.) at the Florenceville-Bristol french fry plant to focus on the market for potato hash browns. With an additional 32,000 square feet and new equipment, the expansion will start by 2018 and add as many as 50 jobs at the factory.

“Hash browns and other specialty products are the fastest-growing segment of the potato market,” said Jeffery DeLapp, McCain’s North America regional president, in a media release. “This investment will help us continue to grow our North American and export businesses and, just as importantly, allow us to support our customers’ growth targets as well.”

McCain is the world’s largest french fry maker and one of the largest employers in Aroostook County, with more than 500 workers at its Easton plant. The company got its start in the Saint John River Valley town of Florenceville-Bristol, where it has corporate offices and the factory, which opened in 2008 to replace the original plant. The New Brunswick community is located about 5 miles from the U.S. border town of Bridgewater in Aroostook.

The company did not say whether the expansion would mean any production changes at Easton, which makes french fries. Dale McCarthy, McCain’s vice president of integrated supply chain in North America, said the factory’s expansion will mean buying more potatoes — and hinted at the possibility of buying more from Maine farmers.

“We are probably going to need an additional 4,000 acres of potatoes or more to feed the new production line,” he said in a media release. “We will obviously buy all that we can locally, but we may have to even reach across borders to meet our needs.”

“The Florenceville area has been good to us over the last 60 years,” McCarthy said. “It has provided us with the skilled workforce and dedicated farmers that helped build our company and achieve the international success that we enjoy today. It is great to be able to continue to invest in the community in this way.”

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