(May 15, 4:10 p.m.) Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo, Fla.-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., is closing its primary Florida citrus packinghouse by the end of May. The LaBelle, Fla., packinghouse was at one time one of the state’s largest citrus packing operations.

Susan Howard, Duda’s corporate communications director, said insufficient citrus volume contributed to company’s decision to close the facility.

“During the past four years, we have had hurricanes, the spread of citrus canker, the threat of citrus greening, and other inputs and operational costs are continuing to increase,” she said. “The outlook is for further decline. The bottom line is, the volume of citrus just did not make it efficient to run the packinghouse anymore.”

Howard reassured buyers Duda plans to continue supplying its customers with the same volume of Florida fruit and that Duda would rely on packing its Florida citrus through partnerships with other packinghouses.

Duda hasn’t decided what it plans to do with the plant, the state’s 12th biggest single packing operation, with an annual capacity of 1.8 million cartons.

According to the Florida Citrus Administrative Committee’s most recent report (March), the Duda plant packed 1 million cartons of grapefruit, tangerines and oranges.

That compares to the 1.7 million cartons it packed during the same time period in 2005, before the hurricanes and diseases struck Florida’s citrus groves. In 2005, the Duda packing operation was the state’s second largest single packinghouse.

Duda’s citrus groves, managed under its Duda Products Inc., the company’s processing subsidiary, will remain unaffected, Howard said.