Written by John Lindt
Singapore-based Olam is expected to attempt to sell off its California tomato processing plants this year, and is not likely to operate its big Lemoore facility this season. Some 250 employees work at the plant.
That is the estimate of the president of the California Tomato Growers, Mike Montna, made even before the current coronavirus pandemic.
“They have no growers signed up for contracts this season.”
This is confirmed by a rep from the Olam plant, who said the facility will be permanently shut down by October, and not operate this year. The Kings County Economic Development Corp. is working to sell the plant.
The company announced last November it would close out operations in Lemoore and shutter the Woodland and Williams facilities. Montna said growers are suffering from higher costs, low prices due to a surplus of product and the high value of the dollar. He said an export battle with the European Union is affecting a hoped-for increase in shipments.
Olam plants in the state are among the largest with a capacity of 1.57 million metric tons annually, using 2018 figures. According to “Tomato News,” the US has 12 companies that rank in the top 40 biggest tomato processing companies in 2017/2018 (virtually all of the Californian processors), with an annual capacity in excess of 14.2 million metric tons.
Three Californian groups rank among the 10 biggest companies in the world for this sector: The Morning Star Company (No. 1), Olam (No. 7) and JG Boswell (No. 8).
California dominates the world production of processed tomato products. With current industry capacity of more than 12 million tons, the state processes a third of the world’s supply of tomato products.
Fifteen primary processors operate 30 plants located throughout the Central Valley. Fresno County remains the top California county in contracted planted acreage for 2018 with 75,200 acres. Yolo, Kings, Merced, and San Joaquin make up the remaining top five counties, accounting for 76 percent of the 2018 total contracted planted acreage for California.
Olam’s Hanford garlic facility is unaffected.