by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission has revoked the vegetable processing licence of Jema International Food Products Inc. after the company failed to pay several tomato growers for last year’s crop.
The commission held a hearing in March in Guelph and ordered Jema, which is affiliated with DaVinci Foods of Montreal, to pay the growers $363,977.81 plus reasonable interest by May 15. The bulk of the money is owed to four Leamington-area growers.
By May 23, the growers still hadn’t received their money so the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers requested the company’s licence to process vegetables be revoked. The company also failed to provide the first of two $250,000 letters of credit for this year’s operations, the commission’s latest decision notes. The first letter was due by May 18 and the second by Aug. 1. The decision, dated May 30, is posted on the commission’s website.
The commission gave Jema until May 29 at 4 p.m. to make submissions before it decided to revoke the company’s licence.
Al Krueger, executive assistant to the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, says the growers are pursuing payment through the courts. Jema also failed to remit grower licence fees to the Processing Vegetable Growers. That money totals a few thousand dollars, he notes. “It’s not anywhere near what the growers are out. It’s the growers who are suffering in this one.”
The company’s licence being revoked means it can no longer buy vegetables from growers. Jema processed tomatoes.
“We thought that it was important to them that they have a licence to process and they would, in fact, process this year,” he explains. “They seemed to indicate that they wanted to be in operation this year.”
Krueger explains ordinarily tomato processors contract their tomatoes in advance, with the company supplying the plants to the growers and measuring the acreage. Without a licence, “none of that is happening this year,” in connection with Jema, he says.
Krueger says the affected farmers also grow for other processors and will continue growing for those other companies. BF