(Nov. 18) VERO BEACH, Fla. — Saying it is nowhere near completing its citrus expansions, Seald Sweet LLC took another step in its global integration by striking a partnership with another West Coast citrus operation.

Seald Sweet on Nov. 11 announced it has entered a marketing agreement with the Piru, Calif.-based Fillmore-Piru Citrus Association.

The arrangement will have Fillmore-Piru packing citrus for Seald Sweet as well as its own labels.

Fillmore-Piru also will pack under the Seald Sweet label citrus from non-Fillmore-Piru growers. Seald Sweet will market both labels, said David Mixon, Seald Sweet’s senior vice president.

“We feel Fillmore-Piru is a perfect fit,” he said. “They have the heritage and the good grower relationships (we were seeking).”

Fillmore-Piru’s 70 growers will bring 1.2 million cartons of valencias, navels and lemons that will bump Seald Sweet’s expected annual citrus movement from about 14.5 million cartons to close to 16 million cartons, Mixon said.

The deal with Seald Sweet, a former grower-owned cooperative, follows Fillmore-Piru’s Aug. 31 ending of a marketing partnership with Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.

Calling DNE a great company, Brian Edmonds, Fillmore-Peru’s vice president and general manager, declined to comment on why the two companies didn’t renew their one-year agreement.

DNE president Greg Nelson said DNE discontinued its relationship with Fillmore-Piru in an amicable way. He said Fillmore-Piru is heavily weighted to valencias and doesn’t have a lot of navels.

OPENING OFFICES

Since the Belgium-based Uni-Veg Group took a controlling interest in Seald Sweet in December 2004, Seald Sweet has been inking partnership agreements and opening offices throughout Texas, California and Florida.

In August, Seald Sweet opened its Visalia, Calif., Seald Sweet West International Inc. office and struck exclusive sourcing arrangements with a grower-shipper and a packing shed, adding 3 million boxes to its lineup. The move also helped expand Seald Sweet’s West Coast import program.

In May, it gained 2 million cartons through a supply deal with Edinburg, Texas-based Edinburg Citrus Association.

Much like Seald Sweet, the Southern California cooperative is moving from its cooperative base to more of an independent and entrepreneurial operation, Mixon said.

A former Sunkist partner, the Ventura County-based Fillmore-Piru packs from 3,000 acres under its labels that include Belle of Piru, Titan, Glider and Ring Leader. It operates F&P Cooling, its repacking, cooling and shipping subsidiary that also handles imports.

Edmonds on May 15 succeeded Tom Hardison as Fillmore-Piru’s general manager. Edmonds was also given the vice president title at that time.

Hardison retired to take care of family business, Edmonds said. Before joining Fillmore-Piru, Edmonds was production manager for Laguna Mist Farms, a subsidiary of Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif. He earlier owned a Ventura County farm management firm.