The company’s banana division is also operating under a new strategic plan, Kocher said. North American volumes for the first quarter were 5% higher than in the first quarter of 2013, but volumes declines of 22% in the Middle East, 9% in the Mediterranean and 5.4% in Europe left the division with an overall volume decline of 0.4% for the quarter.
“We do have good renewals in North America with moderate price increases,” Kocher said, adding that the company also has new business equaling 2 million boxes for 2014.
Chiquita also plans to offer a broader banana portfolio in Europe, including organics. the company is expanding its container shipping capacity “strategic Guatemalan ports” to take advantage of front and back haul opportunities in that region, Kocher said.
One problem with its banana division has been declining rainfall in tropical regions. Company officials said they are adding irrigation to growing operations in Panama can Costa Rico to increase yields in their own fields so they won’t have to rely so heavily on fruit from other sources.
“There were many times we chose not to buy fruit and therefore sold less because the (high cost) would have made our overall results worse than they are,” Lonergan said of buying bananas from other sources.