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NPL produce division closed

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National Properties Ltd. effectively terminated operations of its Produce Division at close of work on Friday, May 2, 2008.{{more}}

According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister, the decision was predicated on the fact that the Produce Division came to National Properties as a bankrupt operation, and since that time it has accumulated losses in excess of $2,000,000.00, despite the indefatigable efforts devoted to turning it around. The issue essentially amounted to subsidies to farmers who sold their produce to the division. Even so, the release said, the closure was not a willy-nilly matter. In a sense, it was planned to coincide with the commencement of operations of Lauders Agro-Processors Inc., itself a company of which National Properties is a major shareholder.

The release said that the exporting of agricultural produce to the Caribbean and to the international market was to have been a major thrust of the Produce Division, and for years it tried hard but unsuccessfully to do this. “The problems encountered were immense. They included the special difficulties associated with the movement of perishable goods internationally; the special difficulties associated with the establishment of suitable payment arrangements with foreign buyers; handling and quality problems; the seasonality and inconsistency of supplies and prices; and the uncompetitiveness of local farm gate prices,” the release said.

Lauders Agro-Processors Inc., a joint-venture company set up by National Properties and WIBDECO, is expected to take up this exporting function. “In furtherance of its assumption of the exporting function performed by the Produce Division, LAP Inc. has agreed to absorb some of the workers released by the closure of the Produce Division” the release said.

Another major thrust of the Produce Division the release said, was to facilitate an orderly local distribution of the output of local farmers. Increasingly, the Produce Division came around to performing this function by using the Food City Supermarket as its outlet. With the closure of the Produce Division, Food City Supermarket would upgrade its own fresh produce department and perform this function on its own. And in furtherance of its assumption of the function previously performed by the Produce Division to supply the local market, Food City has also agreed to absorb some of the workers released by the closure of the Produce Division.

The release ended, “In a word, the closure of the Produce Division is a major part of National Properties’ strategy to streamline its operations and facilitate agricultural expansion in St. and the Grenadines.”

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