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Dinuba Produce Firm ‘Fruit Patch’ To Close

Plant Reportedly Sold

May29,2015-

Fruit patch plant 2015-05-27 at 10.50.42 AM
Embattled produce packing and marketing firm Fruit Patch will close according to a state Warn Notice published in the past few days. The  notice says the closure is permanent with the layoff of 132 employees by July 8. Dinuba city administrator Jayne Anderson confirms the city received the notice as well – commenting that ”it’s too bad we are losing a long time employer.” The company facility is located on Rd 48, a few miles from town.

Fruit Patch has been in the hands of two Wall Street private equity firms in the past decade – the latest being American Capital who bought the company from Marina Capital Partners in 2006 for $168 million.
A series of CEOs has run the Dinuba-based company that has had a record of shipping produce mostly from nearby farms to over 10,000 retail locations. Fruit Patch provides packing and marketing services to  growers of apricots,plums,nectarines,grapes,pomegranates,Asian pears and specialty citrus.They also offered grower financing.

The latest CEO at the company had been Jim Gallagher who was hired in 2012 by American Capital, after an earlier parade of top management had come and gone. According to an industry media story in 2011 “Since American Capital acquired Fruit Patch in 2006, the company has had three different presidents and four different people heading the sales organization.”
While no one from American Capital returned numerous phone calls – a person who answered the phone at the Dinuba headquarters said Mr. Gallagher “was no longer with the company.”
Another company source said as a result of the closure the sales office would also be shut down and that the Dinuba plant had been sold to another firm. He declined to name the firm.
If Fruit Patch’s recent history was a bit bumpy, so has the tree fruit  industry as a whole.
Fruit Patch,located in the heart of stone fruit country, had been well known as marketer for peaches,plums and nectarines, an industry  that has had several tough years. More recently there has been a significant removal of trees to try to right-size this small industry plagued with a perennial oversupply issue.
In Tulare County alone farmers had  boasted over 20,000 acres of plums that has now been reduce by half that acreage.Fresno County nectarine acres are down from 15,000 to around 11,000.
Ironically. sources say this year’s tree fruit crop “looks good” despite the drought, says produce company rep Steve Nelsen of Visalia. One shipper – Simonian Farms says fruit size is smaller but quality and demand is good. Industry expert Barry Bedwell, ‎President at California Fresh Fruit Association, says tree fruit farmers clustered in Tulare and Fresno counties typically have enough water this year, from wells. The Kings River has created ideal sandy soil in this region for growing the best stone fruit and wells are comparatively shallow.
Fruit Patch was started by farmer Leo Balakian in 1976 who continued to ship to Fruit Patch after it was sold.Recently the local grower has reduced acreage of tree fruit on his farms in favor of almonds.
Just who is buying the big,modern Fruit Patch cold storage,packing and processing facility is not clear. The facility is said to be state-of-the-art with some 20 cold storage rooms as well as a large ozone treatment center. In a 2011 story,a American Capital rep said “There have been $5 million invested in the plant in the last three years.”
The facility would likely be attractive to another large fruit packing firm   who would need a workforce to operate. So hopefully – some jobs will come back

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