(UPDATED COVERAGE 4:53 p.m. July 2)

  Starting with the spring 2010 Mexican onion season, Mission, Texas-based Rio Queen Citrus Inc. is packing onions for Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods.

Mark Bassetti, Duda’s vice president of customer development, said the alliance will help Duda improve customer service and enhance its year-round onion program.
“The majority of our sales will be handled by our eastern sales office located in Wellington, Fla., to align our services to our core onion customers,” Bassetti said.
Duda plans to stop direct packing Dandy brand onions at its McAllen, Texas, facility but will continue to manage repacking, cross-docking and consolidation of onions, lemons and other items, Bassetti said.
The company plans to continue an agreement with Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc.

Rio Queen Citrus, which packs for its sister company Elmore & Stahl Inc. under the Rio Sweet and E&S labels, is in touch with Duda’s Mexican onion growers to solidify relationships this summer, said Mike Martin, president.
Martin said Rio Queen does not intend to take on any additional Texas growers.
“We will pack, to their order for certain customers, the Dandy brand for Texas and Mexico,” Martin said. “The growers that they had been working with in Mexico, we hope to transition to working with us, and we think that is going to happen. Early discussions with them have been going on.”
Rio Queen also plans to work with another grower that previously packed for Duda in New Mexico.

Martin said the alliance has been something the two companies have been discussing for some time.

Bassetti said he does not expect the deal to affect the amount of onions shipped, but declined to speculate on the upcoming season’s volumes.

Rio Queen, Duda Farm Fresh form onion alliance