(Oct. 27) WENATCHEE, Wash. — Columbia Marketing International Inc., a vertically integrated shipper of Washington-grown apples, pears and cherries, has added citrus and grapes to its resume for its international customers.

The company specializes in a full selection of apple, pear and cherry varieties, said John Ledeboer, director of international business development.

The company supplies retail and wholesale customers throughout Asia and the South Pacific.

“Our retail customers asked us to expand our offerings to include these items,” Ledeboer said, “simply because it makes it easier on them to buy direct from a single source.”

Traditional distribution in most Asian markets may involve separate brokers for each country or origin.

“More retailers are trying to buy direct,” Ledeboer said, “but they typically assign only one or two people to their produce buying operations, so it becomes a real headache to deal with all those different entities.”

Existing customers gain efficiency in buying their citrus and grapes in the same place they buy apples and cherries, Ledeboer said.

Ledeboer said the company’s new citrus line would ship from traditional California and Washington growers.

“Paul (Sweeney, director international sales) and I have a lot of experience in working with growers in the California and Washington areas, so we’ll be working with folks we already know,” he said.

New packaging designs for the citrus line are in the works, Ledeboer said.

The company imports fresh produce to the U.S. from Argentina and Chile, Ledeboer said, and talks are underway with the company’s primary partner, Unifrutti, Santiago, Chile, to expand the export line of citrus and grapes from that region as well.

“For now we’ll only be shipping U.S.-grown fruit,” Ledeboer said, “but talks with our South American partners are continuing.”

Columbia Marketing International is the sales and marketing company for five independently owned growing and packing companies in Washington: Columbia Fruit Packers, Wenatchee; McDougall & Sons, Wenatchee; Double Diamond, Quincy; Larson Fruit, Selah; and Highland Fruit, Yakima.