UPDATED: Indian River citrus packers merging - The Packer

UPDATED: Indian River citrus packers merging

06/23/2014 05:23:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Greene River Packing(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 25)  An operating merger between two Indian River citrus companies could make Greene River Packing one of the state’s largest citrus packers.

Vero Beach, Fla.-based Leroy Smith Inc., and Greene River are merging in a strategic operating alliance called Greene-Smith Packing LLC.

The new company plans to begin shipments at the start of this fall’s citrus season.

While Greene River Packing, Greene River Marketing Inc., and Leroy Smith Inc. remain, Greene River and Leroy Smith Inc. plan to use Greene River’s packinghouse on the north side of Vero Beach, said Pat Rodgers, Greene River’s president.

Leroy Smith Inc, in operation since 1947, plans to close its packinghouse, Rodgers said.

LeRoy Smith Inc.The new operation uses the Greene-Smith Packing label as well as Greene River’s Tradition and Sunkist-licensed labels.

Greene River finished its first year of packing the Sunkist and Leroy Smith’s fruit, he said.

Greene River also sells for Vero Beach-based Oslo Citrus Growers Association Inc., and markets domestic fruit for Vero Beach-based Riverfront Packing Co. LLC.

Last season, the four companies packed nearly 4 million cartons of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.

“This packinghouse can run a lot of fruit and this deal will make us extremely efficient,” Rodgers, who is a partner with Greene River, said. “The way this business is going, you have to make positive moves or you find yourself losing ground.”

Trey SmithSmith Trey Smith, Leroy Smith’s vice president and president of export arm Smith Trading Co., said he expects to see further industry consolidation.

“In light of the adversities the Florida citrus business is undergoing now, we have to take a proactive stance at surviving until we can get the citrus greening disease and production volume turned around,” he said. “If we keep approaching our business in the same manner in the past and expect different results, that’s the sign of insanity. We are excited to try this new angle.”

Before the 2013-14 season, Leroy Smith Inc. marketed through Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.

Smith Trading plans to continue to handle its export sales.

Export fruit accounts for 70% of Leroy Smith Inc.’s packouts and 60% of Greene River’s.

Though Greene River and Smith discussed the possibility of a merger since 2011, earnest talks didn’t begin until the fall, Rodgers said.

Smith recently finished 10 years of service on the board of directors of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual.

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