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Prime Produce International closes doors, files chapter 7 bankruptcy

by Rand Green | December 08, 2009
Prime Produce International LLC, an avocado importer, packer and marketer founded in 2004 by Avi Crane, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy Dec. 4 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Central District of California in Santa Ana, CA, and ceased operation as of the same date.

The bankruptcy petition was filed by the company's attorney, John T. Hanson of San Francisco. Bankruptcy trustee is John M. Wolfe of Irvine, CA. The case is assigned to Judge Robert N. Kwan.

Explaining the cause of the bankruptcy, Mr. Crane furnished The Produce News with a written statement Dec. 7 that said, "The developer of the software used by PPI uncovered and corrected a defect in its financial module that was causing an overstatement of profits. PPI immediately issued reinstated financials which resulted in the companys major lender closing its line of credit that had been extended to PPI."

After a record $27.5 million in revenue in 2008, the statement continued, PPI was unable to sustain its growth in 2009 without access to capital. Several attempts to find alternative financing or an equity partner were unsuccessful. The tight credit market severely impaired the options available to PPI. The company had been in discussions with its creditors over the past several weeks, but was unable to obtain unanimity.

Mr. Crane said in the statement that since its founding in 2004, Prime Produce had become one of the foremost resources of information on the avocado market in North America for both the trade and producers. The companys core strengths were in avocado sourcing and sales. In 2005, it purchased the California-based packer H&H Avocado Co., making PPI the only company selling avocados from all five sources available to the United States market [California, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic and New Zealand].

In 2009, Prime Produce packed and sold close to 700,000 cartons of California avocados, according to the statement. In the same year, the company introduced a revolutionary avocado-ripening process and also opened a sourcing office in the avocado-growing region in Mexico. The company sold over 1 million cartons of avocados in 2008.

It is with great regret that I had to make the decision to close our doors, Mr. Crane said in the statement. Our employees are all produce industry professionals and experts in their fields. I am confident each one of them will find employment in our industry.

Mr. Crane also expressed gratitude to our avocado suppliers and friends in Australia, California, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and Spain for their support of his company over the past six yeas. To the companys customers, he said that it has been an honor to be part of their avocado procurement programs and assured them that he will work with them to find alternative sources for their avocado requirements.

Mr. Crane had been vice president of international sales at Calavo Growers Inc. prior to founding Prime Produce. Previously, he had been general manager of Chiquita avocado operations and prior to that was vice president of the California Avocado Commission. He has been in the produce industry since 1973.

The Crane family has been in the produce industry for over three decades, he said in the statement. We are currently pursuing opportunities that will utilize our relationships and product knowledge. We plan to spend many more decades in the produce industry. It is our passion.