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Facing stiff foreign competition, balky weather, a dwindling labor supply and a future punctuated with question-marks, Pacific Collier Fresh Co. in Immokalee, FL, one of Florida's larger grower-shippers of fresh vegetables, ceased operations effective immediately, the company announced June 14.

The company, owned in part by the same management team that controls Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd. in Palmetto, FL, culled the last of a small crop from its operation in Cecil, GA, earlier this spring and decided to call it quits. According to some sources, Pacific Collier has already sold its equipment at auction to a group of Mexican growers.

Pacific Collier opened its doors in the mid-1980s and marketed bell peppers, squash and at one point cucumbers under the "Sunripe" brand. Company leaders and industry insiders alike have said that Pacific Collier was struggling for several years and that current market conditions and returns-on-investment made continuing business unviable.

Just five years ago, Pacific Collier partners Pacific Tomato and Barron Collier Cos. (which owns tomato grower Nobles-Collier Inc. in Immokalee) invested more than $1 million to renovate the company's facilities.

Though production has steadily decreased over the last few years, at one point the company's farms grew 1,000 acres of peppers and about 300 acres of squash.