(Sept. 9) ISSAQUAH, Wash. — A business relationship molded for more than 10 years between an international marketing firm and Washington fruit grower has been solidified.

Vanguard International Inc., a national and international produce marketer, and Yakima-based grower-shipper Congdon Orchards Inc. have formed an exclusive marketing alliance. Congdon has turned its attention to its apple, pear and cherry growing operations, while Vanguard has focused on selling the fruit.

The deal, effective for the remainder of 2004 and the 2005 season, is expected to last for more than a year, said Craig Stauffer, president and chief executive officer of Vanguard. Stauffer said it would be a long-term alliance.

Stauffer said Congdon Orchards selected Vanguard for its proven global customer base and ability to provide favorable returns. He said Vanguard chose Congdon for its attention to quality.

Through the agreement, Vanguard now offers pears and apples year-round in the U.S., Stauffer said. The company also imports the commodities from South America, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe and China.

Cherries will not be offered year-round, Stauffer said.

Stauffer said more than 1 million boxes of apples and pears would be marketed from Congdon’s orchards. Fruit will be sold under the Castle, Congdon, Vanguard, Crimson King and Nob Hill brands.

Dick Woodin, Congdon’s president, was not available for comment.

Congdon Orchards’ sales staff has joined the Vanguard operation. However, they remain in Congdon’s Yakima sales office, Stauffer said. Sales manager Tim Madden and sales associates Scott Hennessey and Nani Negrete still sell Congdon’s produce, but they also market Vanguard’s fruit deal in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.