(UPDATED COVERAGE 5:50 p.m.) Pacific Collier Fresh Co., one of south Florida’s largest vegetable grower-shippers, has closed.
Immokalee, Fla.-based Pacific Collier, which shared ownership with some of the owners of Palmetto, Fla.-based Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., shut down its Immokalee-area growing operations and dissolved the ownership partnership. In the past, Pacific Collier Fresh marketed vegetables under the Sunripe brand.
Billy Heller, chief executive officer of Pacific Tomato Growers, said the closure wasn’t an easy decision, and company officials had considered it for several years. Pacific Collier began operations in the mid 1980s.
“The world of green bell pepper has changed,” Heller said. “The costs that we incur vs. the prices we or anyone else is able to garner in the marketplace is not an efficient and reasonable investment in capital. It hasn’t been for years.
“Closing it wasn’t something we entered into lightly nor something we wanted to do,” he said. “We kept hoping things we couldn’t control would change and we changed the things we could. Pure and simple, the economics of that business made it no longer viable.”
On June 4, the company auctioned its farming machinery southeast of Immokalee. One industry person, who declined to be identified, said much of Pacific Collier’s equipment sold to Mexican bidders.
Pacific Collier’s owners also ended operations in Cecil, Ga., and only had a small deal this spring, Heller said.
In 2006, partners Pacific Tomato and agribusiness firm Barron Collier Cos., which also owns tomato packer Nobles-Collier Inc., Immokalee, invested $1 million into renovating the packinghouse. The company packed bell peppers, squash and in the past, small volumes of cucumbers there.
Before reducing acreage in recent years, Collier Pacific, the company’s farming entity, had 1,000 acres of peppers and around 300 acres of squash.