International Farming Corp (IFC), a North-Carolina based agriculture investment firm, last month acquired Legacy Fruit Packers, Valley Fruit and Larson Fruit, forming a new company, Columbia River Orchards.
The investment firm said it believes in the strength of the Washington apple, pear, stonefruit and cherry industries.
“IFC firmly believes that Columbia River Orchard’s exceptional tree fruit land base, state-of-the-art packing and storage facilities, outstanding horticultural expertise and forward-looking marketing desk position it very well for rapid growth in the innovative Northwest tree fruit sector,” the company said in a statement.
Columbia River Orchards now comprises approximately 4,000 acres (1,618ha) of orchards and two facilities with a capacity to pack 4m cartons annually.
IFC’s purchase also included interests in both Yakima-based marketer, Sage Fruit, and Pacific Coast Cherry Packers based in Wapato.
The Yakima Herald reported that there has been a recent trend in the region of smaller businesses selling to interstate investors.
“If you’re going to compete in a more difficult environment and you start losing money, you (should) start selling out and at least get some return,” said Desmond O’Rourke an analyst of the apple industry at Belrose Incorporated.
He added that new apple varieties such as Cosmic Crisp and a steady international demand mean the apple, pear, stonefruit and cherry industries have fared better than other agricultural commodities.
“With some of the new varieties of apples, the return per acre has been spectacular,” he said. “An outside investor looks at that and says, ‘I want to get into that.’”