Fresh Quest Inc., the Plantation, Fla.-based melon grower, importer, shipper and marketer, is developing a new farm in Guatemala’s Asunción Mita growing region.

Though Fresh Quest let go of some staff in Guatemala and Florida during a June downsizing, including vice president and melon industry veteran Lou Kertesz Jr., Alan Guttmann, president, said there weren’t any major personnel changes and declined to state details of how the changes affected Fresh Quest’s operations.

Fresh Quest changes Central American cantaloupe productionThe company grew cantaloupe in Honduras, but is now consolidating production in Guatemala to improve efficiencies and logistics and ship a higher-quality fruit to North America, Guttmann said.

Guttmann became Fresh Quest’s president last fall, succeeding Mario Cardenas, who was in Fresh Quest’s leadership spot for three years, Guttmann said.

Outside of Guatemala’s Zacapa Valley, the 1,038-acre Mita farm should help Fresh Quest increase early January to mid-February cantaloupe production normally filled by Costa Rica and Honduras when Zacapa, Guatemala, growers cease production during an industry-mandated break to combat whiteflies, he said.

Fresh Quest plans to ship two cycles of 346 acres from the new region for the 2012-13 offshore melon season and anticipates full volume the following season, Guttmann said.

Its primary production region is in Zacapa where it grows on 2,249 acres, he said.

Fresh Quest also recently added watermelons and will begin its third season of shipping galia cantaloupe and yellow honeydews to Europe.

Fresh Quest plans to ship all of its products, which also include prepackaged french beans, sugar snaps and okra, from Guatemala and expects its first melon vessel arrival Nov. 24 at Port Manatee in Palmetto, Fla.

Guttmann has worked a dozen years in the produce industry, including as vice president of imports for Rosemont Farms Corp., Boca Raton, Fla., and vice president of sales and a melon category vice president at Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc.

He joined Fresh Quest in 2010 as vice president of product development.

“The melon category has been a challenging category the last few years,” he said. “With the new direction Fresh Quest is taking in consolidating its farming operation in Guatemala, once completed, we will be very well-positioned to continue to be a leader in the category.”

Fresh Quest’s farm is GlobalGAP-certified, third-party audited by PrimusLabs and has a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program. Guttmann said the farm plans to add Global Food Safety Initiative certification in December.

The company also participates in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program.