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Ontario marketer apparently closes doors

Clifford Produce, a longtime produce marketer based in Ruthven, ON, has apparently closed its doors.

On April 22, the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation in Ottawa issued an expulsion notice regarding Clifford Produce Sales Inc. The memo stated, "Clifford Produce Sales Inc., 1593 Essex County Rd. # 34, Ruthven, ON, Canada, N0P 2G0, has been expelled from the DRC membership effective April 17, 2014."

The reason given for the expulsion in the memo is due to Clifford Produce Sales not meeting its debts as they came due.

It also states that the responsibly connected parties are Lake Erie Management Inc.; Angelo Mastronardi, director; David Mastronardi, director; Gerry Mastronardi, president; Guy Totaro, treasurer; Jake Klassen, director; and Steve Mastronardi, secretary.

George Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in Leamington, ON, told The Produce News that the member organization has not been asked to assist.

"Nor do we have a role in assisting," said Gilvesy. "The OGVG's role is in marketing. [DRC President] Fred Webber has indicated that he is not aware of Clifford Produce filing for bankruptcy."

Bankruptcy laws in Canada are similar to those in the United States and are an internal decision that companies make.

However, Gilvesy did point out that his office, along with the Canadian Horticultural Council, a voluntary, not-for-profit national association representing Canadian agriculture, continue to work toward developing a PACA-type organization in Canada. This initiative was a part of the "Beyond the Border Action Plan" signed in late 2011 by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper.

If an organization similar to PACA is made available to the agriculture industry in Canada, it would help to ensure that produce companies follow fair dealing rules by requiring produce companies to obtain a license to do business. Violations of PACA result in penalties, such as loss of license and employment restrictions. The system is similar to licensing drivers.

PACA also provides unique rules for collecting undisputed debts, resolving disputes and contracting to buy or sell produce.