(May 18) DUNDEE, Fla. — Florida’s largest citrus packinghouse and the nation’s seventh-largest corrugated packaging company have partnered to open a new distribution center for shipping cartons in central Florida.

Dundee Citrus Growers Association recently completed construction of a $1.1 million, 60,000-square-foot warehouse next to its packinghouse that will be operated by Pratt Industries USA, Conyers, Ga.

Under terms of the partnership, Pratt Industries will lease the building from Dundee Citrus Growers for an initial period of five years and be the exclusive supplier of packaging to the association, which expects to ship 3.8 million cartons of citrus in 2003-04.

Pratt specializes in recycled products with conversion mills in Conyers and Staten Island, N.Y. The company has nine corrugating plants in six states and 12 box factories in the Southeast and Midwest.

Pratt Industries USA is a subsidiary of Pratt Industries, Melbourne, Australia, which is the world’s largest privately-owned paper and packaging company with annual sales of more than $2 billion, according to the company’s Web site.

“This will result in a more effective operation and lower costs for our growers,” said Lindsay Raley, chairman of Dundee Citrus Growers.

Pratt, which has supplied Dundee Citrus Growers for the past two years, will save transportation costs and have space to stock products for new central Florida clients. Dundee Citrus Growers will benefit from having more space in its packinghouse and immediate access to a supply of boxes.

Pratt will use the operation as a springboard into the Florida citrus industry, said board chairman Anthony Pratt.

The company plans to add a box factory at the site within three years and eventually expand the building to 240,000 square feet, he said.