EastPack forecasts $6.2 million profit

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Kiwifruit post harvest supplier EastPack is forecasting a $6.2 million profit before tax, after paying 20 cents per tray rebate in June 2012, for the year ending 31 December 2012.

EastPack, New Zealand's largest wholly grower owned kiwifruit post harvest cooperative, will maintain investor share dividends at 15c per share, and continues to reduce overall company debt.  EastPack expects to halve its debt to just $5 million for the year end. The share dividend will be paid later this month and in March 2013.

The company anticipates its average 2012 Orchard Gate Return (OGR) for EastPack Green growers to increase 17 cents per tray to $4.68 per tray - amongst the highest OGR in the industry and above ZESPRI's average of $4.33 per tray.

Other 2012 highlights include achieving  a further 10c reduction per tray in operating costs without any staff reductions,  acquiring 2.3million trays from growers coming to EastPack for the first time (to replace gold trays lost to PSA), reducing packing prices by 20c per tray whilst maintaining profitability, and further reducing fruit loss to very low levels.

EastPack Chairman Ray Sharp attributes EastPack's continued positive financial performance to the company's focus on quality, productivity gains and supporting growers and staff to improve on orchard productivity through tech transfer and grower services.

"EastPack has taken a view that the best way to assist our growers is to continue to deliver low packing prices, high OGR and a quality service in terms of on-orchard assistance, packing, coolstorage and off-shore out-turns," Mr Sharp said.

EastPack's profit forecast comes as post harvest suppliers prepare for the 2013 packing season, which is seeing suppliers continuing to reduce packing charges in a bid to attract new growers and volume to replace the gold volume loss caused by Psa.

Mr Sharp says it is a very stressful environment for growers at the moment and the kiwifruit post harvest sector is facing challenges as a result of the significant loss of volume from Psa.

"The logical way to meet this challenge for the benefit of growers is for there to be rapid post harvest rationalisation. There only needs to be two to four large post harvest suppliers to ZESPRI with large, efficient, quality-focussed operations with scale."

He said this would maintain healthy competition, should provide lower cost packing and coolstorage, potentially reduce supply chain complexity and simplify ZESPRI's supply operation.

"The time is right to re-structure our post harvest industry to a more efficient model where we can achieve lower costs for growers while at the same time being able to utilise the best post harvest technology to capacity," Mr Sharp said.

"The worst outcome would be for each post harvest operator to defend their diminished volume position to the last, without there being a move to a more efficient post harvest sector. And EastPack intends to lead the way.

"We know from EastPack's experience that there are significant efficiency gains and cost savings to be had. We are in a strong position to lead this process," Mr Sharp said.

EastPack is offering new and existing EastPack growers $1.11 per tray for the 2013 packing season.  This is based on $1.31 per tray less 20 cents per tray rebate, to be paid in June 2013 for Hayward and G3. Other reject rates may apply.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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