Slemon Park grain operation goes into receivership, staff laid off

·4 min read
Robert Green, left, watches as Chris Chivilo, centre, and William Wagner grade a sampling of his faba beans in this CBC file photo taken September 2016. W.A. Grain, which operated New Leaf Essentials in Slemon Park, has gone into receivership.  (Nancy Russell/CBC - image credit)
Robert Green, left, watches as Chris Chivilo, centre, and William Wagner grade a sampling of his faba beans in this CBC file photo taken September 2016. W.A. Grain, which operated New Leaf Essentials in Slemon Park, has gone into receivership. (Nancy Russell/CBC - image credit)

A company that promised to breath new life into an underused facility in Slemon Park has gone into receivership.

W.A. Grain & Pulse Solutions, which operated New Leaf Essentials, a facility that processes pulse and grains, employed between eight and 10 people — they were all laid off last week.

Finance P.E.I. says W.A. Grain owes the province nearly $4 million in loans.

In a statement to CBC News, the province says it holds security over the P.E.I. operations. It says the receiver, PriceWaterhouseCooper Canada, will sell the property and the proceeds will be applied against what is owed to taxpayers.

The statement goes on to say, "While it is early in the process; the property in Summerside holds significant value which we believe exceeds our loan exposure."

'COVID started it'

Chris Chivilo, CEO of W.A. Grain & Pulse Solutions, wouldn't get into details of what happened other than to say, "COVID started it, but was not the ultimate end to us."

Chris Chivilo, CEO of W.A. Grain & Pulse Solutions, says the sale of the company's assets on P.E.I. should more than cover the balance owing the province.
Chris Chivilo, CEO of W.A. Grain & Pulse Solutions, says the sale of the company's assets on P.E.I. should more than cover the balance owing the province. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Chivilo is hopeful new owners can be found for the P.E.I. operations.

"We're hoping we can find good buyers and have support of the province in engaging new buyers for the facility so that it can be up and running again in as quick a time as possible," Chivilo said in an interview with CBC News from his home in Calgary.

"I expect Finance P.E.I. … considering we put $10-million into the facility, I don't think there should be an issue with them recovering their full balance of their loan."

The company, which also had operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, bought peas, lentils and beans and exported them across Canada and around the world.

'One of my major goals'

The P.E.I. government had much hope for W.A. Grains and its Slemon Park operation.

In October 2018, then-Premier Wade MacLauchlan did a one-on-one interview with Chivilo under the banner "Meeting Mighty Islanders."

Former P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, left, interviews Chris Chivilo, of W.A. Grain, in this October 2018 video. W.A. Grain, which operated New Leaf Essentials in Slemon Park, has gone into receivership
Former P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, left, interviews Chris Chivilo, of W.A. Grain, in this October 2018 video. W.A. Grain, which operated New Leaf Essentials in Slemon Park, has gone into receivership (PEI government )

During the interview, Chivilo talked about plans for further expansion of his P.E.I. operations.

"I hope we can contribute very handily to the economy and employment — one of my major goals in life," Chivilo told MacLauchlan.

The manager of the P.E.I. operations, Wayne MacLean, told CBC News this week he is no longer employed by the company and didn't want to comment.

But William Wagner, one of the employees who lost his job, said it was a great company to work for, and he's hoping the operation will be back in business at some point, possibly with new owners.

A spokesperson with the province says Skills P.E.I.'s transitional services have been meeting with staff this week, to help them plan their next steps.

Equipment stolen

The company was hit with another setback just days before it went into receivership.

Police were called to W.A. Grain & Pulse Solutions last week to investigate the theft of more than $200,000 worth of equipment on April 24.

RCMP Sgt. Neil Logan said the investigation led to the recovery of the stolen equipment from a property in the Summerside area and RCMP are asking anyone with information on the theft to call them.

Chivilo said most of the stolen equipment has been recovered except for a large tool box and some tools.

New Leaf Essentials, a subsidiary of W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions, was created in 2017. It went into receivership last week.
New Leaf Essentials, a subsidiary of W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions, was created in 2017. It went into receivership last week. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Chivilo said his P.E.I. staff worked hard in the final days leading up to the receivership to ensure Island farmers, who sold crops to the company, didn't lose out.

"In the limited amount of time we had before we went into receivership, when things were looking poorly in the last few days, the staff on the Island did everything humanly possible to make sure that producers and suppliers that were owed money by us got either paid — which was pretty hard when our main creditor shut down our line of credit — or they worked into the weekend before receivership to return grain that was owed to the farmers that they hadn't been paid for," Chivilo said.

"The staff went beyond the call of duty making that happen which I appreciate and hopefully that helps ease the pain because there likely will be a few shortages that I am hoping can be made right one day."

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