Three Ontario egg farmers are heading an effort to develop an alliance with Bill Gray and his Gray Ridge Eggs egg-grading business.
They have e-mailed a number of egg producers, inviting them to meet with Gray on the afternoon of April 26 at the St. Mary’s Golf and Country Club.
This initiative comes in the context of two other developments – the establishment of a new egg-grading business by the Nutri Group in Kitchener and a new statement of claim by Sweda Farms Ltd. against Gray and the Ontario egg marketing board.
The Sweda lawsuit is now more than five years old, but still active, although the courts have dismissed the claims against Joe Hudson and his Burnbrae and Maple Lynn Foods businesses.
Nutri Group set up its Kitchener site last year, competing directly with Gray’s operations in nearby Listowel and Elmira and further north-west in Strathroy.
There had been no significant competition in the area after Burnbrae and Gray together bought Metzger Produce, based just west of Elmira and split its suppliers and clients between themselves.
In their e-mailed invitation, Veldman, Helps and McKillop say they recently met with Gray and “have developed a much better appreciation of the grading and distribution side of the egg business.”
They say they “asked Bill (Gray) to consider becoming financial partners in Gray Ridge Eggs” and said he agreed to attend a question-and-answer session during the April 26 meeting.
In the new statement of claim, Sweda lays out a history of Burnbrae and Gray trying to both buy and/or destroy its Best Choice Eggs business.
The egg board got involved by claiming that farmers supplying Best Choice Eggs were cheating on levies because Sweda’s percentage of Grade A eggs was lower than the provincial average.
The new statement of claim seeks $32 million in damages and another $10 million in aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages.
It also seeks a declaration that the Ontario egg board is not entitled to payment of an invoice for about $45-million.
If the case proceeds to trial, it will likely be in Toronto.
Sweda is located at Blackstock near Peterborough, Burnbrae at Lyn, east of Kingston, and Gray at Strathroy.