Fruta Bomba to close operations in Belize
Friday, February 19th, 2016
Agriculture has been heralded as the leading industry in Belize, but in the past year, it has taken a number of hits. The first came when Fyffes broke ties with Meridian Enterprises in October of 2015, sending the banana industry into crisis. Then came a virus outbreak in the shrimp industry in November of 2015, causing close to $30 million in losses. The latest hit to Belize’s Agriculture Industry is the announcement of Fruta Bomba and Belize Fruit Packers permanently closing over the next six months. Fruta Bomba has been the leading papaya grower company in Belize for the past 20 years, and their closure will result in over 250 persons losing their jobs.
“After 22 years operating in the Central American country of Belize, Brooks Tropicals has found it necessary to close its growing and packing operations there,” said the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Greg L Smith, of the parent company of Fruta Bomba and Belize Fruit Packers, in a press release. He went on to further explain that the decision came following economic setbacks from Hurricane Dean in 2007 from which the company never fully recovered. “Efforts over the last three years to build and maintain efficient growing and packing operations in Belize have not been successful, and as a result we had incurred substantial annual loss in Belize that the company can no longer sustain. Efforts included the building of a 16,000 square-foot operations building and considerable improvements to growing, packing and nursery facilities and processes,” said Smith.
Smith further indicated that the company regrets the number of persons who are going to be unemployed. “Brooks Tropicals will work closely with its employees and the government of Belize to bring about a systematic closure that meets the laws of Belize. All wages due to employees, based on Belize labor laws, will be paid at the time employees are laid off.”
CEO of the Ministry of Agriculture Jose Alpuche also regrets the loss in the papaya industry. “The entity almost equals the industry. I don’t believe the entity’s operations here in Belize could have been saved, simply because they have said to us they have been sourcing fruits from Guatemala and they have investments in the Dominican Republic,” said Alpuche.
“I believe it was a bit abrupt, GOB regrets the decision. There is not much we can do at this point in time except to ensure there is a smooth transition and that all liabilities from the company especially liabilities to workers are actually taken care of. As it relates to the papaya industry, their assets that they have at this point in time will be up for sale,” said Alpuche. The Government of Belize (GOB) is not actively seeking a replacement for Fruta Bomba and Belize Fruit Packers in order maintain to keep the papaya industry in Belize.
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