Market 52 Inc., a Visalia, Calif.-based packer-shipper-marketer, is seeking bankruptcy protection.

Market 52, which does business as Premier Pacific Trading, filed for chapter 11 on Jan. 27 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California. A meeting of creditors is scheduled for March 1 at the federal courthouse in Fresno, Calif.

“After significant efforts over the last 18 months to recapitalize its business and better serve the needs of its customers, Market 52 was forced to turn to the protection afforded by the bankruptcy code by filing a petition under Chapter 11,” company president Jerald Downs said in an e-mailed statement.

The top 20 creditors are owed almost $7 million, according to court documents; there are more than 100 creditors listed.

The company’s biggest debt is for $3.3 million to Los Angeles-based National Bank of California, according to court papers.

A variety of growers and agriculture-related businesses are named, including:

  • Eisele Farms, Gresham, Ore., $443,884;
  • Berries Paradise Sapi De CV, Jalisco, Mexico, $342,825;
  • Golden Eagle Blueberries, Pitt  Meadows, British Columbia, Canada $279,364;
  • Etchegaray Farms, Visalia, $223,204;
  • Fresh Kampo S.A., Michoacan, Mexico, $205,202;
  • Cal Valley Farms, Inc., Fowler, Calif., $198,189;
  • New World Farming Trade LLC, New York, $192,480;
  • Batth Farms, Caruthers, Calif., $187,824;
  • Wyckoff Farms, Grandview, Wash., $159,728;
  • Central Valley Produce, Inc., Laton, Calif., $148,710;
  • Valle Maule, Chile, $144,166;
  • Forest Hills, Hillsboro, Ore., $138,078,
  • Lagomarsino Group, Visalia, $134,675;
  • Erickson’s Blueberry Hill, Sandy, Ore., $122,300; and
  • Westberry Farms, Abbotsford, British Columbia, $95,527.

“Market 52 contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week to voluntarily surrender their (Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act) license and start the USDA sanctions process,” Downs said in the Feb. 13 e-mail.

Downs and attorney Scott Belden said a Section 363 sale, which in Chapter 11 allows companies to sell assets as ongoing businesses, is planned.

“(It’s) a competitive bid for both the company’s tangible and intangible assets,” Downs said. “Our decision to hold a 363 sale was for the greatest possible recovery to creditors.”
“It also provides some flexibility in timing of payments to creditors, unlike Chapter 7,” Belden said. “If approved by the court, payments could be made faster than would occur in a Chapter 7 liquidation.”

Downs has been president of Market 52 since its formation in May 2005. Before that he worked in sales and business development at Townsend Farms; as berry category manager for North Bay Produce Inc.; and for four years, as a commodity manager at Safeway Inc.

Market 52 was formed in 2005 and reported triple-digit annual growth in its early years. Initial commodities included blueberries and blackberries. Later, the company added table grapes, asparagus, melons and avocados. The company formed a subsidiary, Market 52 S.A., in Chile in 2009.