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Chilean fruit company expands its U.S. footprint

Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

Published on May 3, 2016 1:19PM

Last changed on May 3, 2016 3:35PM

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press
Hortifrut, a large Chilean berry company, recently announced a merger with Munger Bros., a California-based farming company, and bought 550 acres previously owned by Glenn Walters Nursery near Forest Grove, Ore. The property is shown in this photo.

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press Hortifrut, a large Chilean berry company, recently announced a merger with Munger Bros., a California-based farming company, and bought 550 acres previously owned by Glenn Walters Nursery near Forest Grove, Ore. The property is shown in this photo.

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A large Chilean fruit company is expanding its U.S. footprint with the purchase of property in Oregon and a merger with a California-based berry producer.

Hortifrut of Santiago, Chile, which last year sold roughly $350 million in berries globally, recently announced the upcoming merger with Munger Bros. of Delano, Calif., which has more than 3,000 acres in Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia and Mexico.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed and the deal is subject to “various conditions,” including due diligence and shareholder approval.

The two firms, which are currently partners in the Naturipe Farms marketing organization, expect to complete the merger this summer.

Hortifrut also recently bought eight parcels totaling more than 550 acres near Forest Grove, Ore., for $11 million from the Glenn Walters Nursery.

Bob Hawk, president and CEO of Munger Bros., said he’s not prepared to make a public statement about plans for the property, which is still being evaluated.

“We found it to be a good investment opportunity,” he said. “There’s no short-term plan to begin planting anything at this point in time.”

For the past 15 years or so, berry production has become increasingly globalized as farmers seek to diversify their holdings, said Bernadine Strik, berry specialist with Oregon State University Extension.

Growing numerous types and cultivars of berries across different geographies allows companies to supply grocers with fresh fruit for longer periods of time, even throughout the year if they own properties in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, she said.

Such diversification also helps mitigate risk, Strik said. “If there’s a climate event or pest problem in one region, and that’s the only region where you grow, it hits harder economically.”

Before its recent acquisitions, Hortifrut had nearly 3,200 acres in production in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Spain, with about 80 percent of that acreage in blueberries and the remainder in raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries, according to its 2015 financial report.

The company also sources berries grown by about 700 suppliers in various countries where it has operations.

About 60 percent of the company’s revenues are generated in North America, 25 percent are generated in Europe and the remaining 15 percent come from Asia and South America.

Hortifruit was founded in Chile in 1980 and began exporting its berries to the U.S., Europe and Asia, eventually becoming a publicly traded company in 2012 with a stock offering that raised more than $67 million.



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