Altona pulse crop processor Sunbelt Prairie Products has closed its doors before it opened.
The firm, owned by Makhdoom Abbas, who is also president and CEO of international food-processing firm Zeb Rice Ltd., went into receivership Nov. 16, said Collin LeGall with Winnipeg-based Lazer Grant, a trustee in bankruptcy.
There’s a good possibility some other company will be found to operate the new 25,000-square-foot plant, which cost $3.3 million to build and is capable of processing 60,000 tonnes of edible beans, chickpeas and lentils annually, Jim Spencer, general manager of Sunbelt Development Group said in an interview Friday.
Sunbelt Development Group, funded by the towns of Altona, Gretna, Plum Coulee and the Rural Municipality of Rhineland to encourage economic development in the region, owns the building and was leasing it to Abbas on a rent-to-own basis, Spencer said.
“I think it’s a matter of he (Abbas) just ran out of money.”
– JIM SPENCER
“I believe it’s a good facility and it’s well situated and hopefully it will end up doing what it was intended to do – process lentils, chickpeas and beans,” he added.
“There has been interest. It’s just a matter of finding the right combination of operator.”
Mortgage payments on the building are current, Spencer said.
The tentative opening date for the facility was Nov. 20. Spencer said he’s not aware of any local farmers having delivered crops to the company, which was not licensed and bonded by the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC). That means if any farmers delivered crops to the firm and haven’t been paid, they won’t be reimbursed by the CGC.
However, if any farmer delivered within the last 30 days they might be able to get their crops back, said Judy Archibald of Lazer Grant. Farmers or any others owed money by Sunbelt Prairie Products should contact Archibald or LeGall by calling 1-800-220-0005.
“We are going to be reviewing what assets there are and determining what’s the best course of action to take in terms of trying to sell the company and the assets as a going concern,” LeGall said last week.
CGC spokesman Remi Gosselin said Sunbelt Prairie Products was in the process of becoming licensed and bonded when it went into receivership. He repeated the CGC’s message that farmers should only deliver crops to buyers licensed and bonded by the CGC. Even then, he said, farmers should ideally get a cheque and immediately cash it.
Sunbelt Prairie Products imported and installed special ized equipment from Korea and Pakistan, Spencer said.
“I think it’s a matter of he (Abbas) just ran out of money,” he said.
Sunbelt Prairie Products was part of a family-run food empire, according to a news release issued by the Invest in Canada Bureau this spring.
In the 1970s, Makhdoom Abbas’ father started Zeb Rice Ltd. in his native Pakistan. The company went international and in 2002 in Sweden it opened Amanat Nawaz Rice AB – which, according to Spencer, has gone into bankruptcy.
The Swedish plant processed about 70,000 tonnes of rice a year for markets in Europe. To supply retail networks in 18 countries, the company also operated warehouse facilities at Antwerp, Belgium and Belleville, Ont. [email protected]