Buyer plans to expand Island papaya exports

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A California-based company plans to expand Hawai’i papaya exports following a purchase of tropical fruit packing and processing facilities on the Big Island.

Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. yesterday announced that it has bought papaya and tropical food processing businesses Hawaiian Sweet Inc. and Hawaii Pride LLC.

Calavo said the purchase price depends on business performance goals achieved over the next year, but is between $10 million and $14 million.

The sale includes the state’s only commercial produce irradiator, an operation selling papaya and guava puree, and about 3,000 acres of Big Island land (including 725 acres of fee-simple property) used by farmers to produce papaya for packing and distribution by Hawaiian Sweet.

The irradiator is used to kill fruit flies and other pests on fruits and vegetables before they are exported.

The businesses being acquired by Calavo process an estimated 65 percent to 70 percent of all Hawai’i papaya, or about 200,000 pounds a week, which is exported to the Mainland.

Calavo said it intends to invest in and increase papaya processing.

"We possess sufficient capacity in the acquired packing houses to ratchet up volumes substantially as we work to expand the revenue base in the category," Arthur Bruno, Calavo’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Calavo is buying the Big Island businesses from Lee E. Cole, Calavo’s chairman, president and CEO. The company said the deal was approved with independent oversight by the company’s board of directors.

Previously, Calavo sold papaya processed and exported by the two Hawai’i companies, earning a commission on sales.

Calavo is primarily a marketer of fresh and processed avocados, and reported sales of $303 million in the past fiscal year, ended Oct. 31.

The company was founded in 1924 as a cooperative of avocado growers, and in 2002 converted from a nonprofit co-op to a for-profit company with stock shares traded on the Nasdaq stock market.

Recently, Calavo has been expanding its role in the tropical produce business. In December, the company began marketing Maui Gold fresh pineapples grown by Maui Land & Pineapple Co. under an agreement.

Calavo has marketed and sold Hawai’i papaya since 1949.

Cole has served on Calavo’s board since 1982 and was named president and CEO in 1999. He acquired Hawaiian Sweet in the early 1990s.

The other Cole firm, Hawaii Pride, built an electronic-beam irradiator in Kea’au in 2000 that treats papaya, other tropical fruits and sweet potatoes for export.

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Posted: May 21st, 2008
at 11:38am by Koookiecrumbles


Categories: business,grub

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