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Turners & Growers enters Chilean JV to grow grapes

Turners & Growers enters Chilean JV to grow grapes for first time

By Suze Metherell

Sept. 11 (BusinessDesk) - Turners & Growers, the fruit marketer majority owned by Germany's BayWa, has entered a joint venture with Unifrutti Chile to grow and export Peruvian grapes.

The joint venture with Italian-owned, Chile-based Unifrutti builds on an existing export relationship with T&G, and is the Auckland-based company's first foray into grape growing. T&G didn't disclose any financial details surrounding the deal, saying it will begin planting in Peru later this year with first commercial volumes harvested in late 2015.

T&G's Delica business already exports grapes and has existing operations in South America, though those haven't extended to grape growing before. The company already had a commercial relationship with Unifrutti, which is ultimately owned by the Italy-based De Nada International Group, according to its website.

"We are focusing on grapes as one of our key categories and building partnerships to expand our pipfruit and other key products internationally," chief executive Alastair Hulbest said. "With this investment, we're becoming more vertically integrated in table grapes which we believe to be key to securing a strong position in the category, whilst expanding on the solid supply base we have already established with our Peruvian grower partners."

The exporter is looking to secure fruit supply to meet global demand and in April agreed to buy Hawkes' Bay Apollo Apples for as much as $44.1 million. Last month, the company said first-half profit fell 39 percent to $10.2 million in the six months ended June 30, in part because its international produce division suffered supply shortages through the period.

Last year, T&G returned to annual profit or $16.2 million, following two years of losses when it wrote down the value of its assets, particularly its orchards, by $49.9 million between 2011 and 2012.

Shares of T&G were unchanged at $1.95 and have gained some 11 percent this year.

(BusinessDesk)

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