Ballantine Produce Closing Three Packing Houses

New York (AP) Ballantine Produce was established back in 1943 to provide fresh fruit. The company specializes in peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes. Its sudden closure caught many by surprise.

The /*Ballantine Produce*/ packing house in Reedley was eerily silent. The loading docks now sit empty. Outside of a lone forklift driver there is very little activity here. Ballantine also has a packing house in Sanger. The plant shut down Thursday afternoon. Company officials did not wish to comment.

Early peach varieties are now being picked so some growers are scrambling to find another packing house, Ballantine provides hundreds of jobs during the peak season so its closure strikes another blow to a dismal job market.

Barry Bedwell says peach, plum and nectarine growers have struggled to turn a profit in recent years. Many have uprooted entire orchards to make room for another variety or a different crop. Bedwell worries other packing houses may suffer the same fate as Ballantine.

Bedwell says other Valley packing houses will be able to accommodate the extra tree fruit which would have been packed at Ballantine.

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