Scare helps boost hothouse tomato firm’s Q2

Due in part to greater demand for its greenhouse-grown tomatoes after a salmonella warning imposed on tomatoes this spring, Vancouver hothouse company Village Farms has boosted its second quarter revenues by a third.

The income trust on Wednesday posted net earnings of $4 million on $44.1 million in revenue for its Q2 ending June 30, up from a loss of $1.9 million on revenue of $32.9 million in the year-earlier period (all figures US$).

“We were able to accomplish this level of internal
improvement despite the softness in the U.S. economy and the sharp rise in commodity prices, which is testament to the effectiveness of our bottom-up operational strategies and the stability of the produce industry in general,” Village Farms CEO Michael DeGiglio said in a release Wednesday.

“During the quarter we also saw greater demand for our greenhouse-grown produce due to recent food safety concerns regarding certain domestic and imported tomatoes.”

Red raw tomatoes were among products investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the possible cause of an outbreak of a certain strain of Salmonella Saintpaul in which over 1,200 people in over 40 states and in Canada had reported illness dating back to April.

A U.S. government warning that was imposed on tomatoes on June 7 was lifted July 17. A U.S. warning about raw jalapeno and raw serrano peppers produced in Mexico remained in place as of Aug. 1, relating to the same outbreak, but tomatoes covered by the June warning weren’t exonerated as a source in the outbreak.

Tomatoes grown in Texas, California and seven other U.S. states, as well as in Canada and a few other tomato-exporting countries, were designated June 7 by the FDA as not associated with the outbreak.

Village Farms bills itself as the largest producer, marketer and distributor of premium-quality, greenhouse grown tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers in North America, grown in farm-scale greenhouses in British Columbia, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company moves its produce through seven distribution centres in Canada and the U.S., for those markets as well as buyers in Mexico and Japan.

CFO leaving

DeGiglio also announced Wednesday that Kenneth Hollander, the income fund’s chief financial officer, plans to leave the company after nine years “to pursue other career opportunities.”

Hollander will stay on as CFO until his replacement is named, and he has agreed to a consulting arrangement afterward “to help ensure an orderly transition,” the company said in a separate release.

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