Kerman almond packer expands

FRESNO, Calif.

Locally grown almonds are carefully sorted at the facility before they're packed and shipped around the globe. Consumer demand is up in the U.S. as well as China, western Europe and the middle east.

Panoche Creek Packing is trying to keep pace. The facility opened in Kerman in 2004 with about 60 employees but has seen explosive growth since then. It has employed over 160 people during the peak season.

General Manager Frank Roque said, "Trees are still being planted so I think the growth is going to continue. Consumption is up 11-percent again this year so things are looking very promising for the future and almond growers."

Roque said work has begun on a 100-thousand square foot expansion project. It will allow the company to store more nuts on site, instead of moving them to other valley facilities. He explained, "It's all concentrated on food safety, which is a key component to what we do here. Everything will be under one roof here."

The company's attention to food safety was noted by the Dried Fruit and Nut Association. Roque said, "This was named plant of the year with all the plants they inspect."

The company is Kerman's biggest private employer. City Manager Ron Manfredi was glad to see the facility's continued growth. Manfredi said, "It's been a great deal. Obviously, Kerman, our central valley is an agricultural community. It's something we call value added agriculture. We grow the crops here, we have the orchards here and obviously Panoche Creek is almond packaging in the bulk."

Frank Roque expected the expansion project to be complete before the next almond harvest in August.

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