Thirty-five vegetable growers in Manitoba are facing uncertainty after Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products (CPGPP) entered receivership in late March.
Court documents show the company owes over $9 million in debts, including over $1.5 million to the federal Agriculture Innovation Program and nearly $150,000 to the Food Development Centre at Portage la Prairie, Man.
Earlier in its start-up, CPGPP announced at least 80% of the business would be organic for 2016 and that to meet intensifying demand for organic purées the company had contracted six million pounds of organically grown vegetables from about 35 Manitoba growers, including larger-scale vegetable producers with certified organic acres.
The facility had previously received certification as an “aseptic processing facility” and used breakthrough technology using direct steam injection to achieve full cook/sterilization in four to 20 seconds.
A representative from the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba (VGAM) says the closure of CPGPP’s facility has potentially “devastating consequences for many of the province’s vegetable growers, as well as many related business and sectors.”
“The impact of this extends beyond CPGPP,” says VGAM President Roland Jeffries. “Many businesses in Portage (la Prairie) invested in this. 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.”
A statement from the VGAM says many of Manitoba’s vegetable farmers have invested sizeable dollars in equipment, buildings and other related infrastructure to help CPGPP meet its capacity requirements. In addition to these losses, local farmers are owed a significant amount of money for the vegetables they have delivered to CPGPP in 2016.
“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,” says Jeffries. “There is still time to get the plant up and running again for this year’s crop.”
Farmers across Manitoba were contracted by CGPP to grow a variety of vegetables to meet its facility’s current and projected demands. Some of these contracts included vegetables such as carrots, squash, kale, and pumpkins.