Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd.

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Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd.

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Co-operative Vegetable Oils Ltd. (CVO) was established in Altona, Manitoba in 1943 under the direction of J.J. Siemens. Siemens was an active member in the Mennonite community having been both a school teacher and a farmer. Siemens was also part of the Rhineland Agricultural Society (est. 1931) which was established to develop better agricultural practices--especially through education and experimentation. Equally important was Siemens' belief in the co-operative movement, most notably the development of various Credit Unions.

CVO was established largely because Second World War Canadian imports of edible vegetable oils (from Russia and Argentina) were noticeably reduced, creating a need for domestic production. To support the domestic industry, the Federal Government offered incentives such as price subsidies, transportation subsidies and facilities for processing the crop in Hamilton, Ontario. Although the 1943 crop was shipped to Hamilton, the high costs of long distance transportation of sunflowers - the principle oilseed crop - proved discouraging. Consequently, with a view to the future when these subsidies would be lifted, CVO chose a local processing plant. This scheme, half-heartedly endorsed by the Provincial Government, satisfied the needs of the local community, which backed the project enthusiastically. The Altona plant was to cost a projected $60,000, half of which would be raised from private funds, with the remainder coming from guaranteed loans from the Provincial Government. The community eagerly threw its support behind the plant because it offered long-term economic growth and stability. As farming became increasingly mechanised, farm labour diminished leaving little employment for the young. This affected the close-knit structure of the Mennonite family. Furthermore, wheat prices had not increased significantly since the Depression, and the family farm was suffering. However, the CVO plant provided jobs for locals and an outlet for the alternative crop, the sunflower; it added soybeans and canola in the 1950s.

CVO's list of achievements include: the development of Safflo oil as its first consumer product in 1949, the first oilseed crushing plant in Canada, the first company to commercially process sunflowers in North America, the first North American company to process pure sunflower-based cooking oil, and a strong role in the development of canola as an "oilseed". To meet growing needs, CVO officially merged with Manitoba Pool Elevators April 1, 1975, and called itself CSP Foods. CanAmera Foods purchased CSP Foods 20 March 1992.


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