(UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 2) Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. is closing its Yuma, Ariz., winter vegetable processing plant this fall and converting a Soledad facility to a year-round operation.

UPDATED: Dole moves winter vegetable processing to California

“It was strictly a business decision,” said Marty Ordman, a spokesman for Dole.

In the past, Dole was among the major Salinas Valley grower-packer-shippers that dismantled processing equipment at the end of the California season and transported the equipment to Yuma for the late fall-winter season, he said, and then reversed the task in April.

Ordman declined to reveal volumes.

“In general terms, it (Soledad) will process about one third of Dole’s overall volume of value-added salads,” he said.

The company operates two other value added salad plants in Springfield, Ohio, and Bessemer, N.C.

Dole’s contracts with growers of leafy greens and other vegetables in Arizona will remain; the company will ship the produce to Soledad for processing.

“We will still have our commodity business and cooling operation in Yuma,” Ordman said.

Whether the Yuma plant remains idled is uncertain.

“It’s not a closure,” Ordman said. “We’re going to see how things go this season, and then we’ll evaluate and make a decision.”

The decision eliminates about 500 seasonal jobs in Yuma, Ariz.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but we think it will position us better to meet our customers’ needs and our operational needs,” he said.

About 650 employees at the Soledad plant, about 25 miles south of Salinas, will be able to work year-round. Dole also operates a cooling facility in Marina, about 10 miles west of Salinas.

The seasonal workers at the Arizona plant were notified Aug. 27 that Dole was suspending operations at the Yuma facility.