“We should be fully operational by the end of the month,” said Stephen Ruffini, chief financial officer of Vancouver, Canada-based Village Farms International.
The packing and distribution site will operate under a new subsidiary, Village Farms DR, SRL.
It offers computerized grading machinery, value-added packaging, cold storage, certified quality assurance and the company’s Global Food Safety Initiative programs.
“Growers there have been selling their produce to wholesalers in the Dominican Republic who have connections to various U.S. wholesalers,” Ruffini said. “Nobody had a packhouse. There was a lot of lost product not handled properly in the cold chain. Growers weren’t happy with the pricing they received. It was haphazard.”
“What we’re selling is a fully operational packhouse and cooler. Bring your peppers to us and we’ll pay X. Mexico has made that transition to modern packing facilities over the last 10 years. We’re really the first to do so in the Dominican Republic.”
The site is expected to start operations with 15 employees.
Village Farms will also manage export logistical services of its packaged, branded peppers for distribution in the U.S.
The company has partner greenhouse growers in high-elevation areas of the Dominican Republic, the optimal locations for bell peppers.
“(The) Caribbean region is poised to become a consistent supplier of hydroponic greenhouse-grown sweet bell peppers to the U.S.,” Michael Minerva, senior vice president of grower relations supply development, said in a news release. “Village Farms has engaged in this project to meet its growing customer demand for greenhouse grown bell peppers.”
Village Farms has greenhouse facilities in Texas and British Columbia. The company markets primarily to retail grocers and fresh-food distributors in the U.S. and Canada.