(UPDATED COVERAGE, Feb. 14) East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc. is re-evaluating its business with a financial adviser, with the possibility of selling farmland and other assets, or forming a new partnership with investors.
Doug OhlemeierBatista Madonia Jr., vice president of sales and operations for East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., Mulberry, Fla., displays mature green tomatoes in this November 2010 file photos. One of Florida’s largest tomato grower-shippers, East Coast stopped growing and shipping Florida tomatoes in the fall.The Mulberry, Fla.-based grower-shipper stopped growing tomatoes last fall. The company is using a financial adviser to explore options, according to a news release.
The Madonia family owners are employing Murray Wise Capital to consider selling farmland and other assets and enter into a “recapitalization and restructuring” of its operations, according to the release.
“After two years of freezes on its Florida farms in 2010 and 2011, a hurricane on its Virginia farms in 2011 and an influx of cheap tomato imports from Mexico in recent years, the company opted to not grow and pack tomatoes in late 2012 and into 2013,” Ken Nofziger, Murray Wise Capital’s president, said in the release.
The new agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mexican growers that raises the floor price for tomatoes should make the Madonia’s operations and assets more attractive to operators and investors, Nofziger said in the release.
Carl Carter, a spokesman for Murray Wise Capital, declined to provide additional details, but said the Madonias would consider returning to the business with the right partner.
“Pretty much any option is on the table, whether the sale of some or all of the assets, or pieces of it, it’s a very large business,” Carter said. “If someone were to put an option on the table, and it could be structured for them, they’d be receptive to that. They do need to explore their options.”
East Coast owns more than 10,000 acres in Florida and Virginia which includes a 312,000-square-foot central Florida packing and a dozen farms in Virginia.