(Aug. 11, 3:05 p.m.) Fowler, Calif.-based Bee Sweet Citrus Inc. has reached a multiyear marketing agreement with Crown Citrus Co., Calipatria, Calif.

The citrus packed at the desert operation will boost Bee Sweet"s annual volume to about 8 million cartons, said James Sherwood, vice president of operations for Bee Sweet.

The Crown Citrus packinghouse was completed just as the 2007 harvest began. It was the first citrus packinghouse to be built in the Imperial Valley in 50 years. The packinghouse is owned by brothers Bill and Joe Colace, owners of Five Crowns Marketing, Brawley, Calif., and packinghouse partners Mark McBroom and Max Cardy.

Bee Sweet will market all of the citrus packed in Calipatria, Sherwood said. Five Crowns Marketing plans to continue marketing the company"s other non-citrus commodities, he said.

The desert fruit seasons do not run exactly concurrently with the San Joaquin Valley citrus harvests, which Sherwood said is a benefit to customers.

"It will give Bee Sweet the ability to supply its customers on a nearly year-round basis," he said.

The long-term arrangement will be a win-win situation for everyone, Sherwood said. Customers will benefit from a larger inventory and more varieties while the combined volume of Bee Sweet and Crown Citrus will help grow the customer base.

Crown Citrus plans to pack about 1 million cartons of lemons this season, Sherwood said. Other citrus varieties packed at Crown Citrus include minneolas, fairchilds, murcotts, grapefruit and valencias.

"Most of the fruit will be packed under the Bee Sweet label," Sherwood said, "but for some of the Crown Citrus customers, we"ll continue to pack under the Majesty label."

The earliest desert citrus harvest will begin about Sept. 1, Sherwood said, which is about two months before the start of the navel season in the San Joaquin Valley.