Bankruptcy threatens vegetable growers

A Manitoba company with world leading technology to turn vegetables and pulses into purees is now bankrupt.

Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products of Portage la Prairie filed for bankruptcy protection in late March.

Receivership records show that the company owes $9 million: $6 million to secured creditors and $3 million to unsecured creditors.

The secured creditors are mostly investors, such as the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund, which is owed $1.7 million.

The list of unsecured creditors is much longer. It includes trucking companies, vegetable growers around Portage la Prairie and law firms.

Two of Manitoba’s best known fruit and vegetable growers, Jeffries Bros. and Mayfair Farms, are on the list of creditors.

Canadian Prairie Garden owes $191,000 to Jeffries Bros. Vegetable Growers and $128,000 to Mayfair Farms.

The bankruptcy could be devastating for vegetable farmers who invested in their operations to supply additional demand from Canadian Prairie Garden, the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba said in a statement.

“The impact of this extends beyond (Canadian Prairie Garden),” said VGAM president Roland Jeffries. “Jobs have been created on the farms to support this that are now being lost. Our producers were all ready with their seed and land to begin planting for CPGPP as soon as they could get out there. They are now scrambling, not knowing what to do.”

The federal government is also on the list of unsecured creditors. In 2012, the Conservative government provided a loan of $2.5 million through the Agricultural Innovation Program. Receivership documents show that Canadian Prairie Garden still owes $1.52 million on that loan.

The federal and Manitoba governments also invested $582,000 into the company in January 2016 to help Canadian Prairie Garden purchase “state of the art” equipment.

Only 15 months ago, Canadian Prairie Garden was planning to expand and predicted that it would go from nine employees to 60 within five years.

Jeffries said the technology and the opportunity can be salvaged.

“Our hope is that whichever company or group of investors deciding to pick up what is left of CPGPP will leave the facility in Manitoba,” he said. “There is still time to get the plant up and running again for this year’s crop.”

MNP, which is acting as the receiver, said in a bankruptcy document that Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products has about $7 million in assets, mostly in inventory and fixed assets.

robert.arnason@producer.com

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