Ballantine growers find homes for their stone fruit - The Packer

Ballantine growers find homes for their stone fruit

05/15/2009 01:17:42 PM
Don Schrack

Central California stone fruit growers abandoned by the surprise closing of Ballantine Produce Co. Inc., Sanger, Calif., are finding homes for their peaches, plums and nectarines, said a source close to the company.

Ballantine officials declined to comment.

"The growers have all been able to locate, and the company helped them," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ballantine's financial difficulties stemmed from f.o.b.s that were often below the cost of production in 2007 and 2008, said one source close to the company. In recent years, Ballantine increased imports of fruit from South America and Mexico.

The Reedley division of Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co. Inc., Los Angeles, will pack and market fruit grown by several of the former Ballantine growers, he said.

Giumarra sources were unavailable May 14.

Other fruit will be going to Wawona Packing Co., Cutler, Calif., and Fowler Packing Co. Inc., Fowler, Calif., which will take roughly half of the domestic volume packed by Ballantine, the anonymous source said.

Fowler Packing representatives did not return calls.

Ballantine, founded in 1943, packed and sold about 9 million cartons of fruit.

Ballantine, along with Fowler Packing and SunWest Fruit Co. Inc., Parlier, Calif., was a partner in the Ripe 'N Ready, Zeal and Treehouse Kids brands.

"Fowler Packing and SunWest increased acreage substantially in the past year," said Dean Thonesen, vice president and general manager of SunWest. "We have plenty of product to fill orders for Ripe 'N Ready, Zeal and Treehouse Kids."

Ballantine's financial difficulties stemmed from f.o.b.s that were often below the cost of production in 2007 and 2008, said the source close to the company.

In recent years, Ballantine increased imports of fruit from South America and Mexico, and Larry Meuers, who owns Meuers Law Firm, Naples, Fla., said he is representing at least one Chilean grower seeking payment from Ballantine. There is no indication, however, that the company has filed or is planning to file for bankruptcy protection.

Ballantine Produce operated two Reedley facilities, a company-owned packinghouse and a packinghouse leased from Kaprielian Bros. Packing, Reedley.



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