HIT AGAIN: Farmer Ben Prichard has to pay back $20,000 he was owed from a wholesaler.
HIT AGAIN: Farmer Ben Prichard has to pay back $20,000 he was owed from a wholesaler. Mike Knott BUN090216PRICHARD1

Farmer gets slugged with a $20,000 bill

AS IF losing $283,000 was not enough, Bundaberg sweet potato grower Ben Prichard has suffered another blow, ordered to pay back another $20,000 to liquidators of the company that left him with a huge debt.

Mr Prichard, who runs Mr B Fresh, spoke out last year about the Melbourne produce agent that failed to pay him and a number of other growers in the Bundaberg region alone.

He got a letter on June 15 from liquidators sorting through the remains of LIS Developments Pty Ltd, the business behind the now defunct market wholesaler, E&R Produce.

The letter detailed a $20,000 round sum payment made by LIS to MRB Fresh on May 5, 2016, considered by liquidators to be a "voidable transaction" because in their opinion, LIS Developments had been insolvent for five months at the time.

"We are of the opinion that the Company (LIS Developments) was insolvent on or around 18 January 2016," the liquidators wrote.

They went on to detail how the produce sellers were "breaching their overdraft limit, (had) continued net losses, outstanding lodgements due to the ATO" among other factors.

"MRB's trading history with the company indicates it ought to have been reasonably aware of the company's insolvency," the letter continued, ordering the Bundaberg business pay back the $20,000 within 21 days.

"This will bring the total for both to around $370,000 with legal expenses thus far," Mr Prichard said of the money his family had sunk into the long court battle.

"I don't know how anyone is supposed to be aware of a company's insolvency. It's a pretty stupid statement to make.

"We are currently seeking legal action in relation to the demand."

He has said the Australian horticulture payment system needs a huge overhaul.



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