Fresh Del Monte Produce 10-K 2010
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended January 1, 2010
For the transition period from to .
Commission file number 1-14706
FRESH DEL MONTE PRODUCE INC.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
(Registrant’s telephone number including area code)
Please send copies of notices and communications from the Securities and Exchange Commission to:
c/o Del Monte Fresh Produce Company
241 Sevilla Avenue
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
(Address of Registrant’s U.S. Executive Offices)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ¨ No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ¨ No x
The aggregate market value of Ordinary Shares held by non-affiliates at June 26, 2009, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second quarter, and was $692,624,994 based on the number of shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant and the reported closing price of Ordinary Shares on June 26, 2009 of $16.51. The registrant does not have non-voting common stock outstanding.
As of February 22, 2010, there were 63,600,150 Ordinary Shares of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. issued and outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for the 2010 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the registrant’s fiscal year are incorporated by reference in Part III of this report.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this Annual Report (the “Report”), references to “$” and “dollars” are to United States dollars. References in this Report to Fresh Del Monte, “we”, “our” and “us” refer to Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise. Percentages and certain amounts contained herein have been rounded for ease of presentation. Any discrepancies in any table between totals and the sums of amounts listed are due to rounding. As used herein, references to years ended 2007 through 2009 are to fiscal years ended December 28, 2007, December 26, 2008 and January 1, 2010, respectively.
This Report, information included in future filings by us and information contained in written material, press releases and oral statements, issued by or on behalf of us contains, or may contain, statements that constitute forward-looking statements in particular, information in Item 1. Business and Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Trend Information, contained in this Report. In this Report, these statements appear in a number of places and include statements regarding the intent, beliefs or current expectations of us or our officers (including statements preceded by, followed by or that include the words “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates” or similar expressions) with respect to various matters, including our plans and future performance. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. Fresh Del Monte’s actual plans and performance may differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including (i) the uncertain global economic environment and the timing and strength of a recovery in the markets we serve, and the extent to which adverse economic conditions continue to affect our sales volume and results, including our ability to command premium prices for certain of our principal products, or increase competitive pressures within the industry, (ii) the impact of governmental initiatives in the United States and abroad to spur economic activity, including the effects of significant government monetary or other market interventions on inflation, price controls and foreign exchange rates, (iii) our anticipated cash needs in light of our liquidity, (iv) the continued ability of our distributors and suppliers to have access to sufficient liquidity to fund their operations, (v) trends and other factors affecting our financial condition or results of operations from period to period, including changes in product mix or consumer demand for branded products such as ours, particularly as consumers remain price-conscious in the current economic environment; anticipated price and expense levels; the impact of crop disease, severe weather conditions or natural disasters, such as the recent earthquake in Chile, on crop quality and yields and on our ability to grow, procure or export our products; the impact of prices for petroleum-based products and packaging materials; and the availability of sufficient labor during peak growing and harvesting seasons, (vi) the impact of pricing and other actions by our competitors, particularly during periods of low consumer confidence and spending levels, (vii) the impact of foreign currency fluctuations, (viii) our plans for expansion of our business (including through acquisitions) and cost savings, (ix) our ability to successfully integrate acquisitions into our operations, (x) the timing and cost of resolution of pending legal and environmental proceedings, (xi) the impact of changes in tax accounting or tax laws (or interpretations thereof), and the impact of settlements of adjustments proposed by the Internal Revenue Service or other taxing authorities in connection with our tax audits, and (xii) the cost and other implications of changes in regulations applicable to our business, including potential legislative or regulatory initiatives in the United States or elsewhere directed at mitigating the effects of climate change. All forward-looking statements in this Report are based on information available to us on the date hereof, and we assume no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements.
The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties. It is important to note that our actual results may differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors. The accompanying information contained in this Report, identifies important factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements.
The volume data included in this Report has been obtained from our records. Except for volume data for Fresh Del Monte, the market share, volume and consumption data contained in this Report have been compiled by us based upon data and other information obtained from third-party sources, primarily from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (the “FAO”), and from our surveys of customers and other company-compiled data. Except as otherwise indicated, volume data contained in this Report is shown in millions of 40-pound equivalent boxes.
History and Development of Fresh Del Monte
Our legal name is Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., and our commercial name is Del Monte Fresh Produce. We are an exempted holding company, incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands on August 29, 1996. At January 1, 2010, the close of our most recent fiscal year, members of the Abu-Ghazaleh family directly owned 33.9% of our outstanding Ordinary Shares.
Our principal executive office is located at Walker House, 87 Mary Street, George Town, Grand Cayman, KY1-9002, Cayman Islands. The address of our U.S. executive office is located at Del Monte Fresh Produce Company, 241 Sevilla Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida 33134. Our telephone number at our U.S. executive office is (305) 520-8400. Our Internet address is http://www.freshdelmonte.com. The electronic version of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, along with other information about us, our operations and our results and other documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) can be found on our Web site. Information on our Web site is not a part of this Report on Form 10-K.
Our global business, conducted through subsidiaries, is primarily the worldwide sourcing, transportation and marketing of fresh and fresh-cut produce together with prepared food products in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We source our fresh produce products (bananas, pineapples, melons, tomatoes, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, cherries, citrus, avocados, blueberries and kiwi) primarily from Central and South America, Africa, the Philippines, North America and Europe. We source our prepared food products primarily from Africa, Europe and Asia. Our products are sourced from company-owned operations, through joint venture arrangements and through supply contracts with independent producers. We distribute our products in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
On June 6, 2008, we acquired all of the shares of Desarollo Agroindustrial de Frutales, S.A., a producer of high-quality bananas in Costa Rica; all of the shares of Frutas de Exportacion, S.A., a major producer of gold pineapples in Costa Rica; and all of the shares of an affiliated sales and marketing company, collectively known as “Caribana”. The purchase price for Caribana was $405.9 million plus $2.9 million for acquisition-related expenses, financed with $88.5 million in cash on hand and drawings under our then-existing syndicated revolving credit facility. As a result of this acquisition, our land holdings in Costa Rica increased by approximately 13,000 hectares of quality farm land producing approximately 13 million boxes of bananas and 11 million boxes of gold pineapples annually. We also acquired state-of-the-art packing facilities, as well as modern farming equipment. Caribana’s extensive production area substantially increases our presence in the banana market and further strengthens our number one position in the gold pineapple market. The close proximity of Caribana’s production and packing operations to our existing farms has provided significant operating efficiencies and synergies. This transaction has enabled us to continue to capitalize on the growing global demand for fresh produce and to expand our reach into existing and new markets.
On June 27, 2008, we acquired certain operating assets, excluding land, of Melones de Costa Rica, S.A. (“MCR”). MCR is a 50%-owned unconsolidated subsidiary that produces melons for us in Costa Rica. MCR continues to own the land that is leased to us on a long-term basis. Total area under production is approximately 2,300 hectares with an estimated annual production of three million boxes. The purchase price was $8.0 million.
During the third quarter of 2008, we acquired two additional melon operations in Guatemala. The assets acquired comprised principally farming equipment, packing sheds and materials and supplies inventory. Total area under production is approximately 1,500 hectares producing two crops annually on leased land with an estimated annual production of 4.5 million boxes. The purchase price was $13.9 million.
Our capital expenditures totaled $84.5 million in 2009, consisting of approximately $51.4 million primarily for distribution centers in Saudi Arabia and for expansion of production facilities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil and the Philippines related to the banana segment, $27.8 million principally for expansion of our pineapple operations in Costa Rica and the Philippines, expansion of non-tropical fruit operations in Chile and expansion of fresh-cut fruit facilities in North America and the United Kingdom related to the other fresh produce segment and $5.3 million for expansion of production facilities in Jordan and Kenya related to the prepared food segment. Our capital expenditures totaled $101.5 million in 2008, consisting of $59.4 million principally for distribution centers in Saudi Arabia and South Korea and for expansion of production facilities in the Philippines, Guatemala and Brazil related to the banana segment, $23.1 million principally for expansion of production facilities in Costa Rica, the Philippines and Chile related to the other fresh produce segment and $19.0 million principally for production facilities in Jordan and Kenya related to the prepared food segment. Our capital expenditures for 2007 consisted of $81.4 million primarily for the expansion of distribution and manufacturing facilities in the Middle East and the expansion of production facilities in Kenya, Brazil and the Philippines. The principal capital expenditures planned for 2010 consist primarily of the expansion and improvements of production facilities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Kenya and the Philippines, and for our distribution and fresh-cut facilities in North America and the United Kingdom. We expect to fund our planned capital expenditures of approximately $103.0 million in 2010 through operating cash flows and borrowings under credit facilities.
We are one of the world’s leading vertically integrated producers, marketers and distributors of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, as well as a leading producer and distributor of prepared fruit and vegetables, juices, beverages and snacks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We market our products worldwide under the DEL MONTE® brand, a symbol of product innovation, quality, freshness and reliability since 1892. Our global sourcing and logistics network allows us to provide regular delivery of consistently high-quality fresh produce, juices, beverages, processed fruit and vegetables and value-added services to our customers.
We have leading market positions in the following product categories. We believe we are:
We source and distribute our products on a global basis. Our products are grown primarily in Central and South America, Africa and the Philippines. We also source products from North America and Europe. Our products are sourced from company-controlled farms and independent growers. We transport our fresh produce to markets using our fleet of 16 owned and 17 chartered refrigerated vessels, and we operate four port facilities in the United States. At year end 2009, we operated 44 distribution centers, generally with cold storage and banana ripening facilities in our key markets worldwide, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. We also operate 13 fresh-cut facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, some of which are located within our distribution centers. Through our vertically integrated network, we manage the transportation and distribution of our products in a continuous temperature-controlled environment. This enables us to preserve quality and freshness, and to optimize product shelf life, while ensuring timely and year-round distribution. Furthermore, our position as a volume producer and shipper of bananas allows us to lower our average per-box logistics cost and to provide regular deliveries of our premium fresh fruit to meet the increasing demand for year-round supply.
We market and distribute our products to retail stores, food clubs, wholesalers, distributors and foodservice operators in more than 100 countries around the world. North America is our largest market, accounting for 48% of our net sales in 2009. Europe, Asia and the Middle East regions are our other major markets, accounting for 28%, 12% and 9% of our net sales in 2009, respectively. Our distribution centers and fresh-cut facilities address the growing demand from supermarket chains, club stores, mass merchandisers and independent grocers to provide value-added services, including the preparation of fresh-cut produce, ripening, customized sorting and packing, just-in-time and direct-store-delivery and in-store merchandising and promotional support. Large national retail chains are increasingly choosing fewer suppliers – ones that can serve all of their needs on a national basis – and there is a significant opportunity for a company with a full fresh and fresh-cut produce line, a well-recognized brand, a consistent supply of quality produce and a national distribution network to become the preferred supplier to these large retail customers. We believe that we are uniquely positioned as a preferred supplier, and our goal is to expand on this status by increasing our leading position in fresh-cut produce, expanding our banana, pineapple and melon business and diversifying our other fresh produce selections. In recent years, we have transformed our company from a fresh and fresh-cut produce company into a multinational prepared food company with a product line that includes prepared fruit and vegetables, juices, beverages and snacks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Our strategy is focused on a combination of maximizing revenues from our existing infrastructure, entering new markets and strict cost control initiatives. We plan to continue to capitalize on the growing global demand for fresh produce and expand our reach into existing and new markets. We expect sales growth of fresh produce in key markets by increasing sales volume and per unit sales prices as permitted by market conditions. Our recent acquisitions have substantially increased our production capability of bananas, pineapples and melons and provide the potential over time for significant operating efficiencies and synergies. In addition, our number one position in the gold pineapple market has been further strengthened. Our strategy includes increasing volumes from existing production and distribution facilities in order to improve operating efficiencies and reduce per unit costs. We plan additional investments in growth markets, such as the Middle East, by adding distribution facilities and expanding our value-added services.
Products Sourcing and Production
Our products are grown and sourced primarily in Central and South America, Africa and the Philippines. We also source products from North America and Europe. In 2009, 49% of the fresh produce we sold was grown on company-controlled farms and the remaining 51% was acquired through supply contracts with independent growers.
We produce, source, distribute and market a broad array of fresh produce throughout the world, primarily under the DEL MONTE® brand, as well as under other proprietary brands, such as UTC® and Rosy®. We also produce, distribute and market prepared fruits and vegetables, juices, beverages and snacks under the DEL MONTE® brand, as well as other proprietary brands, such as Fruit Express™, Just Juice®, Fruitini® and other regional trademarks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The following table indicates our net sales by product for the last three years:
See Note 23, “Business Segment Data”, to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data for further information.
Bananas are the leading internationally traded fresh fruit in terms of volume and dollar sales and the best-selling fresh fruit in the United States. Europe and North America are the world’s largest banana markets and Asia is the third largest market. According to the latest published statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (“FAO”), in 2007, Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East consumed 17.8, 9.9, 4.0 and 1.7 billion pounds of bananas, respectively. Bananas are a key produce department product due to their high turnover and the premium margins realized by grocers.
Bananas have a relatively short growing cycle and are grown in tropical locations with humid climates and heavy rainfall, such as Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Philippines and Africa. Bananas are grown throughout the year in these locations, although demand and prices fluctuate based on the relative supply of bananas and the availability of seasonal and alternative fruit.
We believe that we are the world’s third-largest marketer of bananas, based on internally generated data. Our banana sales in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East accounted for approximately 41%, 28%, 21% and 10% of our net sales of bananas in 2009, respectively. We produced 39% of the banana volume we sold in 2009 on company-controlled farms, and we purchased the remainder from independent growers. As a result of our Caribana acquisition, on an annualized basis, we have increased our total company-controlled banana volume by approximately 27%.
Bananas are the best-selling fresh produce item, as well as a high-margin product for many of our customers. Accordingly, our ability to provide our customers with a year-round supply of high-quality DEL MONTE® bananas is important to maintaining our existing customer relationships and attracting new customers. Our position as a volume shipper of bananas has also allowed us to make regular shipments of a wide array of other fresh produce, such as pineapples, melons and plantains, reducing our average per-box logistics costs and maintaining higher quality produce with a longer shelf life.
We produce bananas on company-controlled farms in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, Cameroon and the Philippines and we purchase bananas from independent growers in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, the Philippines and India. Although our supply contracts are primarily long-term, we also make purchases in the spot market, primarily in Ecuador. In Ecuador and Costa Rica, there are minimum export prices for the sale of bananas, which are established by the respective governments and reviewed by them on a periodic basis.
Due in part to limitations in the Philippines on foreign ownership of land, we purchase the majority of bananas in the Philippines through long-term contracts with independent growers. Approximately 76% of our Philippine-sourced bananas are supplied by one grower, representing 15% of the supplier’s industry volume in 2009. In the Philippines, we have leased approximately 3,000 hectares of land where we have planted Highland bananas for the Asia market.
Pineapples are grown in tropical and sub-tropical locations, including the Philippines, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil, Indonesia and various countries in Africa. In contrast to bananas, pineapples have a long growing cycle of 18 months, and require re-cultivation after one to two harvests. Pineapple growing thus requires a higher level of capital investment, as well as greater agricultural expertise.
The premium pineapples, such as our Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple, which has enhanced taste, golden shell color, bright yellow flesh and higher vitamin C content, has replaced the Champaka and other traditional pineapple varieties in popularity and demand and has led to increased competition.
We believe we are the market leader of fresh pineapples worldwide, based on internally generated data. This market share excludes the pineapple we sell in the fresh-cut format. Pineapple sales in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East accounted for 49%, 35%, 13% and 3% of our net sales of pineapples in 2009, respectively. From 1996 to 2009, our volume of the Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple increased from two and a half million boxes to 27.6 million boxes. Our pineapple volume has increased by 11% this year. Based on FAO data, for the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007, the volume of pineapple sales in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East has increased by 250%, 203%, 74% and 634%, respectively. We believe that a substantial portion of this growth is due to our introduction of the Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple. As a result of our recent Caribana acquisition and our continued expansion of existing pineapple operations, we expect to continue to increase the sales volume of our extra sweet pineapples in the near future with extra sweet pineapples grown in Costa Rica and the Philippines.
The principal production and procurement areas for our gold pineapples are Costa Rica and the Philippines. Given the complexity of pineapple cultivation relative to our bananas, a higher percentage of the fresh pineapples we sell (84% by volume in 2009) are produced on company-controlled farms. Our Caribana acquisition has increased our total company-controlled Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple volume by approximately 29% on an annualized basis.
Fresh-cut produce first gained prominence in many U.S. and European markets with the introduction of washed and cut vegetables. While packaged salads continue to lead the category of fresh-cut produce sales, the category has expanded significantly to include gold extra sweet pineapple, melons, mango, grapes, citrus and assorted vegetable produce items that are washed, cut and packaged in a ready-to-use form. Market expansion has been driven largely by consumer demand for fresh, healthy and ready-to-eat food alternatives, as well as significant demand from foodservice operators. Within this market, we believe that there has been increasing differentiation between companies active primarily in the packaged salad market and other companies, like us, that can offer a wide variety of fresh-cut fruit and vegetable items.
The majority of fresh-cut produce is sold to consumers through retail store and club store settings, as well as non-conventional settings such as convenience stores, gas stations and airports. We believe that outsourcing by food retailers will increase, particularly as food safety regulations become more stringent and retailers demand more value-added services. This trend should benefit large branded suppliers like us, who are better positioned to invest in fresh-cut facilities and to service regional and national chains and foodservice operators, as well as supercenters, mass merchandisers and club stores. We also believe that large branded suppliers benefit from merchandising, branding and other marketing strategies for fresh-cut products, similar to those used for branded processed food products, which depend substantially on product differentiation.
We believe that the fresh-cut produce market continues to be one of the fastest-growing categories in the fresh produce segment, largely due to consumer trends favoring healthy and conveniently packaged ready-to-eat foods. We established a platform in this industry through acquisitions and by building upon our existing fresh-cut pineapple business. We believe that our experience in this market, coupled with our sourcing and logistics capabilities and the DEL MONTE® brand, have enabled us to achieve a leading position in this highly fragmented market. Based on the latest supermarket scan data as supplied by an independent market data provider for 2009, we believe that we are now the market leader in branded fresh-cut fruit in the United States. Our fresh-cut fruit products include pineapple, melons, grapes, citrus, apples, mango, kiwi and other fruit items. The fruit we use in our fresh-cut operations are sourced within our integrated system of company-controlled farms and from GAP-certified (good agricultural practices) independent growers. We also offer fresh-cut vegetables for prepared salads, such as coleslaw and potato salad. We purchase our vegetables for these purposes from GAP-certified independent growers in the United States and in Europe. Our purchase contracts for both fruit and vegetables are typically short-term but vary by produce item. Our fresh-cut products are sold in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Japan.
Non-tropical fruit includes grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, apricots, avocados, citrus and kiwis. Generally, non-tropical fruit grows on trees, bushes or vines that shed their leaves seasonally. Approximately 41% of our non-tropical fruit net sales are from the sale of grapes. Fresh grapes are a favorite quick, easy and healthy snack among consumers young and old. In addition to their delicious taste, a growing body of research on fresh grapes suggests that grapes may offer significant health benefits as well. Fresh grapes are a well-known fruit worldwide, fitting into almost any lifestyle. Based on a 2009 study by the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), Economic Research Service, since the 1998/99 season, fresh grape consumption has grown 20% in the United States and, on average, Americans now consume 8.5 pounds of fresh grapes each year. Fresh grapes are also processed for the production of wine, raisins, juices and canned products. The higher production cost and higher product value of fresh grapes result from more intensive production practices than are required for grapes grown for processing. While California supplies the majority of total grape volumes, imports have made fresh grapes available year-round in the United States, with shipments mostly from Chile. Most U.S. production is marketed from May to October. Chilean grapes dominate the market from December to April.
Approximately 26% of our non-tropical fruit net sales are from the sale of avocados. According to the latest published statistics from the FAO, for the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007, avocado imports to the United States have increased by 1200%. Per capita consumption of avocados in the United Sates has also increased significantly in the last 10 years. According to the Economic Research service of the USDA, per capita consumption of avocados was estimated to reach 3.8 pounds during the 2008/2009 season.
We sell a variety of non-tropical fruit, including all of the types referred to above. In 2009, non-tropical fruit sales in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America accounted for approximately 63%, 10%, 14%, 9% and 4% of our total net sales of non-tropical fruit, respectively. We obtain our supply of non-tropical fruit from company-owned farms in Chile and from independent growers in Chile, the United States, Mexico, Spain and New Zealand. In Chile, we purchase non-tropical fruit from independent growers and also produce a variety of non-tropical fruit on approximately 5,200 acres of company-owned or leased land. Our avocados are sourced principally from Mexico. In Spain and Mexico, we have our own sourcing operations, ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality non-tropical fruit during the growing season. Purchase contracts for non-tropical fruit are typically made on an annual basis.
Based on FAO data, for the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007, the volume of imports of cantaloupes and other melons increased in North America, Europe and the Middle East by 18%, 74% and 150%, respectively. Melons are one of the highest volume fresh produce items, and this category includes many varieties, such as cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. During the summer and fall growing seasons in the United States and Europe, demand is met in large part by local suppliers of unbranded or regionally branded melons. By contrast, in North America and Europe, imports significantly increase, and melons generally command premium pricing from October to May. Melons are grown in temperate and tropical locations and have a relatively short growing cycle.
We sell a variety of melons including cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and specialty melons, which we introduced to meet the different tastes and expectations of consumers in Europe. Cantaloupes represented over 80% of our melon sales volume in 2009. We are a significant producer and distributor of melons from October to May in North American and European regions by sourcing melons from our company-controlled farms and independent growers in Central and South America, where production generally occurs during this period. Melons sold in North America and Europe from October to May generally command a premium price due to the relative scarcity of melons and alternative fruit. Melon sales in North America and Europe accounted for 79% and 19% of our net sales of melons in 2009, respectively. In terms of volume, we produced 81% of the melons we sold in 2009 on company-controlled farms and purchased the remainder from independent growers.
We are able to provide our customers with a year-round supply of melons from diverse sources. For example, we supply the North American market during its summer season with melons from Arizona, California and the East Coast of the United States, and we supply the European market during its summer season with melons from Spain.
We have devoted significant research and development efforts towards maintaining our expertise in melons, especially cantaloupes. Melon crop yields are highly sensitive to weather conditions and are adversely affected by high levels of precipitation during the growing period of the fruit. We have developed specialized melon growing technology that we believe has reduced our exposure to the risk of intemperate weather conditions and significantly increased our yields.
The United States is one of the largest producers of tomatoes in the world, ranking second only to China. Mexico and Canada are also important suppliers of fresh tomatoes within North America. Based on “Fresh Trends”, an industry publication published in 2008, fresh tomatoes remain a top performer for food retailers, generating approximately 7.4% of a retailers produce sales.
We source our fresh tomatoes mainly from the United States, Mexico and Canada. The tomato category is highly fragmented with many suppliers, re-packers and wholesalers in various geographic regions of the United States. As a high volume item, tomatoes are important for our network of distribution and re-packing facilities. This product category allows us to add value through leveraging our purchase volumes to reduce costs and perform the sorting, packaging and custom labeling locally, in addition to delivering on a just-in-time basis to retail chains and foodservice customers. With our fresh-cut fruit and vegetable facilities, we can add additional value by incorporating tomatoes into our consumer-packaged products.
We distribute and market a variety of vegetables including mainly potatoes, onions, bell peppers and cucumbers. While we sell bulk product, we also use our size and distribution network to find opportunities to add value such as sorting and packaging. We source our vegetables from independent growers in North and Central America.
We produce, distribute and market a variety of other fruit, including strawberries, plantains and mangos, as well as various other varieties of fruit. We source these other fruit items from company-controlled farms and independent growers in Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala and the United States.
We have a royalty-free perpetual license to use the DEL MONTE® Trademark in connection with the production, manufacture, sale and distribution of prepared foods and beverages in over 100 countries throughout Western, Eastern and Central Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Del Monte has operated in Europe for over 75 years, is the premier brand associated with fruit-based or fruit-derived products and is the leading brand for canned fruit and pineapple in many Western European markets. Del Monte has had a presence in the United Kingdom, the largest market, since 1926 and is perceived to be a quality brand with high consumer awareness. Del Monte has a reputation with both consumers and retailers for value, quality and reliability.
We produce, distribute and market prepared pineapple, peaches, apricots, fruit cocktail, pears, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables. Our deciduous prepared food products, which include peaches, apricots, pears and fruit cocktail are principally sourced from our own facilities in Greece and South Africa. Our tomato products are sourced from our own facilities in Greece together with independent producers in Europe and the Middle East. Our prepared pineapple products are primarily sourced from our own facility in Kenya and are also sourced from independent producers in Asia. These products are sold primarily under the DEL MONTE® label and under the buyers’ own label for major retailers. We also distribute and market beverages, including ambient juices and juice drinks as well as various snacks. In the United Kingdom, our beverage production has been outsourced to a third party since the first quarter of 2008. During the second quarter of 2009, we consolidated the production, distribution and sales and marketing function of our United Kingdom beverages with this same third party. We believe that outsourcing these functions will reduce costs and increase our competitiveness. We also produce and market industrial products that are composed of fruit that has been processed in our production facilities in the form of purees, pulps and concentrates for further processing (yogurt, cake manufacture, pizza, etc.) and for sale to the foodservice industry worldwide. We expect to continue investing in new product development to increase revenue, defend our premium price position and maintain market leadership in our product categories. In recent years, we have expanded our offerings in the snack category by offering multiple varieties and sizes of fruit in plastic pots and various frozen juice stick bars products, targeting the convenience store and foodservice trade in selected European and Middle East markets.
Our prepared food segment also includes our Jordanian food business. This business includes a state-of-the-art vertically integrated poultry business, including poultry farms, a grain mill, a slaughterhouse and a meat processing plant in Jordan. Our Jordanian poultry business is the leading provider of poultry products to retail stores and foodservice operators in that country. The newly established meat processing operation provides meat products for the Jordanian market and to other Middle East and African markets.
Other Products and Services
Our other products and services include our third-party ocean freight business, our third-party plastics and box manufacturing business and our Argentine grain business. Our third-party ocean freight business allows us to generate incremental revenue on vessels’ return voyages to our product sourcing locations and when space is available on outbound voyages to our major markets, which reduces our overall shipping costs. During the fourth quarter of 2009, as a result of unfavorable economic conditions, we eliminated our third-party ocean freight service from North Europe to the Caribbean. Our plastics and box manufacturing business produces bins, trays, bags and boxes. Although this business is intended mainly to satisfy internal packaging requirements, we also sell these products to third parties.
In addition, we grow grain on leased farms in Argentina, including soybean, wheat and rice. We own and operate grain silos in Argentina for the storage of our grain and that grown by third parties, which may be held for future sales.
We market and distribute our products to retail stores, foodservice operators, wholesalers and distributors in more than 100 countries around the world. As a result, we conduct complex logistics operations on a global basis, transporting our products from the countries in which they are grown to the many markets in which they are sold worldwide. Maintaining fruit at the appropriate temperature is an important factor in preventing premature ripening and optimizing product quality and freshness. Consistent with our reputation for high-quality fresh produce, we must preserve our fresh fruit in a continuous temperature-controlled environment, beginning with the harvesting of the fruit in the field through its distribution to our end markets.
We have a fully integrated logistics network, which includes land and sea transportation through a broad range of refrigerated environments in vessels, port facilities, containers, trucks and warehouses. Our objective is to maximize utilization of our logistics network to lower our average per-box logistics cost, while remaining sufficiently flexible to redeploy capacity or shipments to meet fluctuations in demand in our key markets. We believe that our control of the logistics process is a competitive advantage because we are able to continuously monitor and maintain the quality of our produce and ensure timely and regular distribution to customers on a year-round basis. Because logistics costs are also our largest expense other than our cost of products, we devote substantial resources to managing the scheduling and availability of various means of reliable transportation.
We transport our fresh produce to markets worldwide using our fleet of 16 owned and 17 chartered refrigerated vessels. During 2009, we sold five of our older, less efficient vessels and entered into 10-year agreements to charter four new Japanese-built vessels. These vessels are capable of carrying approximately 430,000 40-pound boxes of palletized and containerized fruit. Two of these new vessels were put into service during the fourth quarter of 2009 and the remaining two are scheduled for delivery during the first half of 2010. We believe that our fleet of owned vessels, combined with longer-term charters, is effective in reducing our ocean freight costs and mitigates our exposure to the volatility of the charter market. We also operate a fleet of approximately 6,100 refrigerated containers, which are 43% owned or under capital leases, and the remaining 57% are under operating leases. Our logistics system is supported by various information systems. As a vertically integrated food company, managing the entire distribution chain from the field to the customer requires the technology and infrastructure to be able to meet our customers’ complex delivery needs.
Sales and Marketing
Our sales and marketing activities are conducted by our sales force located at our sales offices worldwide and at each of our distribution centers. Our commercial efforts are supported by marketing professionals located in key markets and regional offices. A key element of our sales and marketing strategy is to use our distribution centers as a means of providing value-added services for our customers. During 2009, we made significant investments in our network of distribution centers, primarily concentrated in the Middle East, where we believe that a strong presence will allow us to service a greater proportion of customers’ needs and to capture a greater proportion of these expanding fresh and fresh-cut produce markets. Investments in our network included new distribution centers with banana ripening, cooling, re-packing and other value-added service facilities.
We actively support our customers through technical training in the handling of fresh produce, in-store merchandising support, joint promotional activities, market research and inventory and other logistical support. Since most of our customers carry only one branded product for each fresh produce item, our marketing and promotional efforts for fresh produce emphasize trade advertising and in-store promotions.
One of our most recent innovations is our new Controlled Ripening Technology (“CRT™”) banana packaging. Launched in October 2009, our proprietary, patent pending CRT™ packaging was created for individual single-serve packages and for our 40-pound bulk banana boxes. This packaging utilizes state-of-the-art technology to help improve the ripening and handling process while helping retailers increase banana sales, reduce product losses and maximize profits. It also allows us to deliver to our customers the highest quality fruit. As a result of this CRT™ packaging, we are able to broaden our distribution channels to include vending machines and expand our product offerings to our convenience store customer base.
During 2009, one customer, Wal-Mart, Inc. (including its affiliates), accounted for approximately 13% of our total net sales. These sales are reported in our banana, other fresh produce and prepared food segments. No other customer accounted for 10% or more of our net sales. In 2009, the top 10 customers accounted for approximately 34% of our net sales.
The level of marketing investment necessary to support the prepared food business is significantly higher than that required for the fresh produce and fresh-cut fruit and vegetable business. We have utilized a variety of promotional tools to build the DEL MONTE® brand and engage consumers in key markets in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In recent years, we implemented a new strategy for the prepared food business in certain key European markets consisting of utilizing exclusive distributors to perform product distribution, sales and marketing activities. Under these agreements, the sales, warehousing, logistics, marketing and promotion functions are all performed by the distributor. This strategy of utilizing independent distributors has enabled us to reduce distribution and sales and marketing expenses. In addition, we plan to expand our prepared food business by entering new markets in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East and by expanding our offerings in the snack category, targeting the convenience store and foodservice trade in selected European and Middle East markets.
In 2009, 48% of our net sales were made in North America. In North America, we have established a highly integrated sales and marketing network that builds on our ability to control transportation and distribution throughout our extensive logistics network. We operate a total of 22 distribution centers and fresh-cut facilities in the United States. Our distribution centers have ripening capabilities and/or other value-added services. We also operate four port facilities, which include cold storage facilities.
Our logistics network provides us with a number of sales and marketing advantages. For example, because we are able to maintain the quality of our fresh produce in a continuous temperature-controlled environment, we are under less pressure to fully sell a shipment prior to its arrival at port. We are thus better able to manage the timing of our sales to optimize margins. Our ability to off-load shipments for cold storage and distribution throughout our network also improves ship utilization by minimizing in-port docking time. Our logistics network also allows us to manage our inventory among distribution centers to respond more effectively to fluctuations in customer demand in the regions we serve.
We have sales professionals in locations throughout the United States and in Canada. We sell to leading grocery stores and other retail chains, wholesalers, mass merchandisers, supercenters, foodservice operators, club stores and distributors in North America. These large customers typically take delivery of our products at the port facilities, which we refer to as FOB delivery. We also service these large customers, as well as an increasing number of smaller regional chains and independent grocers, through our distribution centers.
In 2009, 28% of our net sales were made in Europe. We distribute our products throughout Europe. In the United Kingdom, where we operate three distribution centers and two fresh-cut facilities, our products are distributed to leading retail chains, smaller regional customers as well as to wholesalers and distributors through direct sales and distribution centers. In Northern Europe, we distribute our fresh produce products through our own marketing entities with operations located in Germany and The Netherlands. In Southern Europe, we distribute our fresh produce through an independent marketing company. Our prepared food products are distributed through independent distributors throughout most of Europe, except in Germany, France and Poland where we use our own marketing entities. In Germany, we operate three distribution centers. In Poland, we operate two distribution centers. In recent years, we restructured various prepared food operations and have transitioned to utilizing exclusive distributors to perform product distribution and sales and marketing activities in certain key European markets. Under these agreements, the sales, warehousing, logistics, marketing and promotion functions are all performed by the distributors. This strategy of utilizing independent distributors has enabled us to reduce distribution, sales and marketing expenses.
Middle East and North Africa
In 2009, 9% of our net sales were made in the Middle East and North Africa. We distribute our products through independent distributors and company-operated distribution facilities. We have increased our sales of bananas in the Middle East market through distributors and established our own direct sales initiatives. Our distribution/manufacturing center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) is a state-of-the-art facility with just-in-time delivery capabilities that includes banana ripening and cold storage facilities, fresh-cut fruit and vegetable operations and an ultra-fresh juice manufacturing operation. We distribute these products in the UAE and export them to other Middle East countries. We also operate a distribution center in Abu-Dhabi, UAE that includes banana ripening and cold storage facilities. In Saudi Arabia, through our 60%-owned joint venture, we are implementing an expansion program that includes the construction of two distribution centers with banana ripening, cold storage facilities and future manufacturing capabilities. One of the distribution centers, located in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, was completed in 2009 while the second one, located in Jeddah, is planned for completion in the first quarter of 2010. These strategically located distribution centers will distribute our fresh produce products to this growing market. In addition, we market and distribute prepared food products in the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and various other Middle East and North African markets. We have also established a presence in Egypt where we market and distribute prepared food. In Jordan, we own a state-of-the-art vertically integrated poultry business including poultry farms, a grain mill, a slaughterhouse and a meat processing plant. We are the leading provider of poultry products to retail stores and foodservice operators in that country. In recent years, we have expanded our food business in Jordan with the addition of the meat processing operation that provides meat products for the local market and for export to other Middle East and North African markets. We believe that the Middle East and North Africa markets represent an area for rapid sales development of our fresh and prepared food products. Utilizing our extensive knowledge of this region, we plan to capitalize on this opportunity with increased focus and investments in these markets.
In 2009, 12% of our net sales were made in Asia. We distribute our products in Asia through direct marketing and large distributors. Our principal markets in this region are Japan, South Korea, mainland China and Hong Kong. In Japan, we distributed approximately 89% of the products we sold in 2009 through direct sales and the remainder through Japan’s largest fresh produce wholesaler, which distributes our products on a sales commission basis. Our products are distributed from four distribution centers located at strategic ports in Japan with cold storage and banana ripening operations.
We also engage in direct sales and marketing activities in South Korea and Hong Kong. In other Asian markets, including mainland China, we sell to local distributors. We have one distribution center and banana ripening facility in Hong Kong. In South Korea, we have three distribution centers that utilize state-of-the art ripening technology, which we believe is not otherwise available in that market. This increases our ability to offer value-added services to our customers.
We also distribute our products in South America. We have direct sales and marketing activities in strategic markets and also utilize local distributors in this region. Our sales in these markets focus mainly on non-tropical fruit including grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, kiwi and nectarines.
We compete based on a variety of factors, including the appearance, taste, size, shelf life and overall quality of our fresh produce, price and distribution terms, the timeliness of our deliveries to customers and the availability of our produce items. The fresh produce business is highly competitive, and the effect of competition is intensified because our products are perishable. Competition in the sale of bananas, pineapples, melons and the other fresh fruit and vegetables that we sell comes from competing producers and distributors. Our sales are also affected by the availability of seasonal and alternative produce. While historically our main competitors have been multinational banana and pineapple producers, our significantly increased product offering in recent years has resulted in additional competition from a variety of companies. These companies include local and regional producers and distributors in each of our fresh produce and fresh-cut product categories.
The extent of competition varies by product. In the pineapple and non-tropical fruit markets, we believe that the high degree of capital investment and cultivation expertise required, as well as the longer length of the growing cycle, makes it relatively difficult to enter the market. However, in recent years we have experienced an increase in competition with our Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple, which has negatively affected our results.
In the banana market, we continue to face competition from a limited number of large multinational companies. At times, particularly when demand is greater than supply, we also face competition from a large number of relatively small banana producers. Unlike the pineapple and non-tropical fruit markets, there are few barriers to entry into the banana market. Supplies of bananas can be increased relatively quickly due to bananas relatively short growing cycle and the limited capital investment required for banana growing. As a result of changes in supply and demand, as well as seasonal factors, banana prices fluctuate significantly.
In the melon market, we compete with producers and distributors of both branded and unbranded melons. From June to October, the peak North American and European melon-growing season, many growers enter the market with less expensive unbranded or regionally branded melons due to the relative ease of growing melons during this period, the short growth cycle and reduced transportation costs resulting from the proximity of the melon farms to the markets. These factors permit many smaller domestic growers to enter the market. During the offshore growing season from October to May, we compete with growers principally in Central America. In recent years, there has been an abundant supply of melons in the market during the offshore growing season, which has negatively affected our results.
The fresh-cut produce market is highly fragmented, and we compete with a wide variety of local and regional distributors of branded and unbranded fresh-cut produce and, in the case of certain fresh-cut vegetables, a small number of large, branded producers and distributors. In this market, however, we believe that our principal competitive challenge is to capitalize on the growing trend of retail chains and independent grocers to outsource their own on-premises fresh-cut operations. We believe that our sales strategy, which emphasizes not only our existing sources of fresh produce, but also a full range of value-added services, strict compliance with food safety standards and our national distribution capability, positions us to gain an increasing share of this market.
The processed fruit and beverage markets are mature markets characterized by high levels of competition and consumer awareness. Consumer choices are driven by price and/or quality. Large retailers with their “buyers own label” (“BOL”) products appeal to price-conscious consumers, while brand names are the key differentiator for quality-focused consumers. In the processed food and beverage markets in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, we compete with various local producers, large retailers with their BOL products, as well as with large international branded companies. It is in the branded section that our processed foods products, specifically, canned fruit and pineapple in many European countries, hold a leading position in the markets. The mature state of the market in Western Europe, together with the strength and sophistication of the large retailers there, account in part for the increasing presence of BOL products in many food and beverage categories. In the past few years, we have faced increased competitive pressure, particularly in the U.K. market, for branded processed food and beverage products. At the same time, our marketing and distribution costs in these European markets have increased. In order to reduce costs and increase our competitiveness in the processed food business, we decided to use distributors in certain key European markets to perform product distribution and sales and marketing activities. Under these arrangements, the sales, warehousing, logistics, marketing and promotion functions are all performed by the distributor. In the United Kingdom and Italian markets we have also outsourced our beverage production. This strategy, taking advantage of lower cost and established marketing and distribution networks, has enabled us to reduce costs and increase our competitiveness in these mature markets.
To ensure the consistent high quality of our products, we have a quality assurance group that maintains detailed quality specifications for all our products so that they meet or exceed minimum regulatory requirements. Our specifications require extensive sampling of our fresh produce at each stage of the production and distribution processes to ensure high quality and proper sizing, as well as to identify the primary sources of any defects. Our fresh produce is evaluated based on both external appearance and internal quality, using size, color, porosity, translucence and sweetness as criteria. Only fresh produce meeting our stringent quality specifications is sold under the DEL MONTE® brand.
We are able to maintain the high quality of our products by growing a substantial portion of our own produce and working closely with our independent growers. We insist that all produce supplied by our independent growers meet the same stringent quality requirements as produce grown on our farms. Accordingly, we monitor our independent growers to ensure that their produce will meet agricultural and quality control standards, offer technical assistance on certain aspects of production and packing and, in some cases, manage the farms. The quality assurance process begins on the farms and continues as harvested products enter our packing facilities. Where appropriate, we cool the fresh produce at our packing facilities to maximize quality and optimize shelf life. As an indication of our commitment to quality, many of our operations have received certificates of compliance from the International Standards of Operation, in environmental compliance (14001) and production processes (9001). In 2003, we became the world’s first multinational fresh produce company to receive GlobalGap certification. We believe that this certification is among the more difficult food certifications to achieve, and signals to European retailers and consumers that the fresh produce from our certified operations are of the highest quality and that it meets the strictest food safety standards.
Agriculture and the sale and distribution of fresh produce are subject to extensive regulation by government authorities in the countries where the produce is grown and the countries where such produce is marketed. We have internal policies and procedures to comply with the most stringent regulations applicable to our products, as well as a technical staff to monitor pesticide usage and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. We believe we are in material compliance with these laws and regulations.
We are also subject to various government regulations in countries where we market our products. The countries in which we market a material amount of our products are the United States, Canada, the countries of the European Union (the “EU”), Japan, China, South Korea, Jordan and the UAE. These government regulations include:
Any failure to comply with applicable regulations could result in an order barring the sale of part or all of a particular shipment of our products or, in an extreme case, the sale of any of our products for a specified period. In addition, we believe there has been an increasing emphasis on the part of consumers, as well as retailers, wholesalers, distributors and foodservice operators, on food safety issues, which could result in our business and operations being subject to increasingly stringent food safety regulations or guidelines.
Although the fresh-cut produce industry is not currently subject to any specific governmental regulations, we cannot predict whether or when any regulation will be implemented or the scope of any possible regulation.
European Union Banana Import Regulations
In November 2005, the EU agreed to reform its controversial banana import license regime. Latin America banana exporters and the United States long have complained that the EU’s banana trading system favored African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (“ACP”) in violation of global trade rules. From January 1, 2006, the quotas controlling import volumes of “third country” (almost exclusively Latin American) bananas coming into the EU were eliminated. Importers are now required to pay a euro (“€”) tariff of €176 per ton and a small guarantee of €15 per ton. Import licenses have been eliminated, but an import certificate is still required. The EU agreed to retain a duty-free quota of 775,000 tons per annum for bananas from ACP countries. In December 2007, most of the ACP countries, including Cameroon, signed a bilateral agreement with the EU that allows bananas duty free access to the EU market without any quantitative limitation commencing on January 1, 2008. On December 15, 2009, the EU entered into an agreement with certain Latin America banana exporting countries to settle the long running dispute over banana import tariffs. The EU will gradually reduce import tariffs on bananas from Latin America from the current level of €176 per ton to €114 per ton in 2017. The largest reduction in the import tariff of €28 per ton will be retroactively effective to December 15, 2009, once the national lawmakers ratify the agreement. The import tariff will then be reduced again on January 1, 2011 and at the beginning of each subsequent year for seven years, as follows: 2011-€143, 2012-€136, 2013-€132, 2014-€127, 2015-€122, 2016-€117 and 2017-€114. This agreement is expected to be ratified during the first half of 2010. If certain global agricultural trade conditions, as stipulated in the agreement, are not meet by the end of 2013, the reduction in import tariffs will be frozen for two years until 2015. Afterwards, commencing in 2016, irrespective of meeting the stipulated conditions, the EU will continue to reduce its tariff each year as agreed, until the tariff reaches €114 on January 1, 2019. We cannot predict the impact of this reduction of banana import tariffs on the EU market.
The management, use and disposal of some chemicals and pesticides are inherent aspects of our production operations. These activities and other aspects of production are subject to various environmental laws and regulations, depending upon the country of operation. In addition, in some countries of operation, environmental laws can require the investigation and, if necessary, remediation of contamination related to past or current operations. We are not a party to any dispute or legal proceeding relating to environmental matters where we believe that the risk associated with the dispute or legal proceeding would be material, except as described in Item 3. Legal Proceedings and Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data in connection with the Kunia Well Site.
On May 10, 1993, the EPA identified a certain site at our plantation in Hawaii for potential listing on the National Priorities List under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended. See Item 3. Legal Proceedings and Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.
Research and Development, Patents and Licenses, Etc.
Our research and development programs have led to improvements in agricultural and growing practices and product packaging technology. These programs are directed mainly at reducing the cost and risk of pesticides, using natural biological agents to control pests and diseases, testing new varieties of our principal fruit varieties for improved crop yield and resistance to wind damage and improving post-harvest handling. We have also been seeking to increase the productivity of low-grade soils for improved banana growth and experimenting with various other types of fresh produce. Our research and development efforts are conducted by our staff of professionals and include studies conducted in laboratories, as well as on-site field analyses and experiments. Our research and development professionals are located at our production facilities and in the United States, and we provide our growers with access to improved technologies and practices. We operate research and development facilities in the San Francisco Bay area of California and Costa Rica where we conduct various research activities relating to the development of new fruit varieties.
Some of the research and development projects include:
Our total corporate research and development expenses were $3.2 million, $3.5 million and $3.1 million for 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively, and are included in selling, general and administrative expenses in the Consolidated Financial Statements.
We have the exclusive right to use the DEL MONTE® brand for fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and other fresh and fresh-cut produce and certain other specified products on a royalty-free basis under a worldwide, perpetual license from Del Monte Corporation, an unaffiliated company that owns the DEL MONTE® trademark. Del Monte Corporation and several other unaffiliated companies manufacture, distribute and sell under the DEL MONTE® brand canned or processed fruit, vegetables and other produce, as well as dried fruit, snacks and other products. Our licenses allow us to use the trademark “DEL MONTE®” and the words “DEL MONTE®” in association with any design or logotype associated with the brand. The licenses also give us certain other trademarks and trademark rights, on or in connection with the production, manufacture, sale and distribution of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, other fresh produce and certain other specified products. In addition, the licenses allow us to use certain patents and trade secrets in connection with the production, manufacture, sale and distribution of our fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, other fresh produce and certain other specified products.
We have a royalty-free perpetual license to use the DEL MONTE® trademark in connection with the production, manufacture, sale and distribution of all food and beverage products in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
We also sell produce under several other brands for which we have obtained registered trademarks, including UTC®, Rosy®, Fruit Express®, Just Juice®, Fruitini® and other regional brands.
In part as a result of seasonal sales price fluctuations, we have historically realized a greater portion of our net sales and of our gross profit during the first two calendar quarters of the year. The sales price of any fresh produce item fluctuates throughout the year due to the supply of and demand for that particular item, as well as the pricing and availability of other fresh produce items, many of which are seasonal in nature. For example, the production of bananas is continuous throughout the year and production is usually higher in the second half of the year, but the demand for bananas varies because of the availability of other fruit. As a result, demand for bananas is seasonal and generally results in higher sales prices during the first six months of the calendar year. We make most of our sales of non-tropical fruit from October to May. In the melon market, the entry of many growers selling unbranded or regionally branded melons during the peak North American and European melon growing season results in greater supply, and therefore lower sales prices, from June to October. As a result of greater demand during the fourth quarter, the prepared food business is expected to have higher net sales and gross profit during this period. These seasonal fluctuations are illustrated in the following table, which presents certain unaudited quarterly financial information for the periods indicated:
At year end 2009, we employed approximately 44,000 persons worldwide, substantially all of whom are year-round employees. Approximately 88% of these persons are employed in production locations. We believe that our overall relationship with our employees and unions is satisfactory.
We are organized under the laws of the Cayman Islands and, as set forth in our Amended and Restated Memorandum of Association, we are a holding company for the various subsidiaries that conduct our business on a worldwide basis. Our significant subsidiaries, all of which are directly or indirectly wholly owned, are:
Web site Access to Reports
Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and all amendments to those reports can be viewed on the Company’s Web site at www.freshdelmonte.com as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC.
In addition, copies of our annual report may be obtained free of charge at Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., upon written request to attention: Investor Relations c/o Del Monte Fresh Produce Company, 241 Sevilla Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida 33134.
We are subject to many risks and uncertainties that may affect our future financial performance and our stock price. Some of the risks and uncertainties that may cause our financial performance to vary or that may materially or adversely affect our financial performance or stock price are discussed below.
We could realize losses and suffer liquidity problems due to declines in sales prices for bananas, pineapples and other fresh produce.
Our profitability depends largely upon our profit margins and sales volumes of bananas, pineapples and other fresh produce. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, banana sales accounted for the most significant portion of our total net sales, and historically pineapple sales have accounted for the most significant portion of our total gross profit.
Supplies of bananas can be increased relatively quickly due to the banana’s relatively short growing cycle and the limited capital investment required for banana growing. As a result of imbalances in supply and demand and import regulations, banana prices fluctuate; consequently, our operating results could be adversely affected.
Sales prices for bananas, pineapples and other fresh produce are difficult to predict. It is possible that sales prices for bananas and pineapples will decline in the future, and sales prices for other fresh produce may also decline. In recent years, there has been increasing consolidation among food retailers, wholesalers and distributors. We believe the increasing consolidation among food retailers may contribute to further downward pressure on our sales prices. In the event of a decline in sales prices or sales volumes, we could realize significant losses, experience liquidity problems and suffer a weakening in our financial condition. A significant portion of our costs is fixed, so that fluctuations in the sales prices have an immediate impact on our profitability. Our profitability is also affected by our production costs, which may increase due to factors beyond our control.
Due to fluctuations in the supply of and demand for fresh produce, our results of operations are seasonal, and we realize a greater portion of our net sales and gross profit during the first two quarters of each year.
In part as a result of seasonal sales price fluctuations, we have historically realized a greater portion of our gross profit during the first two quarters of each year. The sales price of any fresh produce item fluctuates throughout the year due to the supply of and demand for that particular item, as well as the pricing and availability of other fresh produce items, many of which are seasonal in nature. For example, the production of bananas is continuous throughout the year and production is usually higher in the second half of the year, but the demand for bananas during that period varies because of the availability of seasonal and alternative fruit. As a result, demand for bananas is seasonal and generally results in higher sales prices during the first six months of each calendar year. In the melon market, the entry of many growers selling unbranded or regionally branded melons during the peak North American and European melon growing season results in greater supply, and therefore, lower sales prices from June to October. In North American and European regions, we realize most of our sales and gross profit for melons, grapes and non-tropical fruit from October to May. During 2009, due to higher industry volumes, melon per unit sales prices decreased, adversely affecting our results of operations. In the prepared food business, we historically realize the largest portion of our net sales and gross profit in the third and fourth quarters of the year.
Crop disease, severe weather, natural disasters and other conditions affecting the environment, including the effects of climate change, could result in substantial losses and weaken our financial condition.
Crop disease, severe weather conditions, such as floods, droughts, windstorms and hurricanes, and natural disasters, such as the recent earthquake in Chile, may adversely affect our supply of one or more fresh produce items, reduce our sales volumes, increase our unit production costs or prevent or impair our ability to ship products as planned. This is particularly true in the case of our premium pineapple product, the Del Monte Gold ® Extra Sweet pineapple, because a substantial portion of our production is grown in one region in Costa Rica. Since a significant portion of our costs are fixed and contracted in advance of each operating year, volume declines due to production interruptions or other factors could result in increases in unit production costs, which could result in substantial losses and weaken our financial condition. We have experienced crop disease, insect infestation, severe weather and other adverse environmental conditions from time to time, including hurricanes, droughts, floods and earthquakes in our sourcing locations. Severe weather conditions may occur with higher frequency or may be less predictable in the future due to the effects of climate change. When crop disease, insect infestations, severe weather, earthquakes and other adverse environmental conditions destroy crops planted on our farms or our suppliers’ farms or prevent us from exporting them on a timely basis, we may lose our investment in those crops or our purchased fruit cost may increase.
The fresh produce and prepared food markets in which we operate are highly competitive.
The fresh produce and prepared food business is highly competitive, and the effect of competition is intensified because most of our products are perishable. In banana and pineapple markets, we compete principally with a limited number of multinational and large regional producers. In the case of our other fresh fruit and vegetable products, we compete with numerous small producers, as well as regional competitors. Our sales are also affected by the availability of seasonal and alternative fresh produce. The extent of competition varies by product. To compete successfully, we must be able to strategically source fresh produce and prepared food of uniformly high quality and sell and distribute it on a timely and regular basis. In addition, our profitability has depended significantly on our gross profit on the sale of our Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapples. Increased competition in the production and sale of Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapples has adversely affected our results. We expect these competitive pressures to continue.
We are subject to material currency exchange risks because our operations involve transactions denominated in various currencies.
We conduct operations in many areas of the world involving transactions denominated in a variety of currencies, and our results of operations, as expressed in dollars, may be significantly affected by fluctuations in rates of exchange between currencies. Although a substantial portion of our net sales (41% in 2009) are denominated in non-dollar currencies, we incur a significant portion of our costs in dollars. Although we periodically enter into currency forward contracts as a hedge against currency exposures, we may not enter into these contracts during any particular period or these contracts may not adequately offset currency fluctuations. We generally are unable to adjust our non-dollar local currency sales prices to compensate for fluctuations in the exchange rate of the dollar against the relevant local currency. In addition, there is normally a time lag between our incurrence of costs and collection of the related sales proceeds. Accordingly, if the dollar appreciates relative to the currencies in which we receive sales proceeds, our operating results may be negatively affected. Our costs are also affected by fluctuations in the value, relative to the U.S. dollar, of the currencies of countries in which we have significant production operations, with a weaker dollar resulting in increased production costs.
Our strategy of diversifying our product line, expanding into new geographic markets and increasing the value-added services that we provide to our customers may not be successful.
We are diversifying our product line through acquisitions and internal growth. In addition, we have expanded our service offerings to include a higher proportion of value-added services, such as the preparation of fresh-cut produce, ripening, customized sorting and packing, direct-to-store delivery and in-store merchandising and promotional support. This represents a significant departure from our traditional business of delivering our products to our customers at the port. In recent periods, we have made significant investments in distribution centers, fresh-cut and prepared food facilities through capital expenditures and acquisitions and have expanded our business into new geographic markets. We may not be successful in anticipating the demand for these products and services, in establishing the requisite infrastructure to meet customer demands or the provision of these value-added services. During recent years, we incurred significant asset impairment and other charges as a result of our continuing efforts to align our diversified product lines to market demand. If we are unable to recover from current challenging economic conditions in Europe, specifically in the United Kingdom, the prepared food goodwill and trademark may be at risk for impairment in the future. If we are not successful in our diversification efforts, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be further materially and adversely affected.
Increased prices for fuel, packaging materials or short-term refrigerated vessel charter rates could increase our costs significantly.
Our costs are determined in large part by the prices of fuel and packaging materials, including containerboard, plastic, resin and tin plate. We may be adversely affected if sufficient quantities of these materials are not available to us. Any significant increase in the cost of these items could also materially and adversely affect our operating results. Other than the cost of our products (including packaging), sea and inland transportation costs represent the largest component of cost of products sold.
During 2007, the cost of fuel increased 17% and containerboard had a slight increase as compared with 2006. During 2008, the cost of fuel increased by 42% and containerboard increased by 11%. During 2008, we also experienced a significant amount of cost increases on our products due to higher fertilizer and other raw material prices. During 2009, cost of fuel decreased by 32% and containerboard decreased 24% as compared with 2008. In addition, we are subject to the volatility of the short-term charter vessel market because approximately one-half of our refrigerated vessels are chartered rather than owned. These charters are for periods of one to 10 years. Charter rates have generally increased during 2007 and 2008 as compared with the relevant prior year, but did not experience any further increase during 2009. As a result, significant increases in fuel, packaging material and short-term charter rates would materially and adversely affect our results.
Compliance with regulation aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, as discussed elsewhere in these Risk Factors, could also increase the cost of fuel for our shipping and logistics operations. We may be unable to pass along any cost increases in our product pricing. Even if we can pass on cost increases, significant changes in product pricing could also change consumer buying patterns, including a greater reliance on local production rather than imports.
We are subject to the risk of product contamination and product liability claims.
The sales of our products involve the risk of injury to consumers. Such injuries may result from tampering by unauthorized personnel, product contamination or spoilage, including the presence of foreign objects, substances, chemicals, or residues introduced during the growing, packing, storage, handling or transportation phases. While we are subject to governmental inspection and regulations and believe our facilities comply in all material respects with all applicable laws and regulations, including internal product safety policies, we cannot be sure that consumption of our products will not cause a health-related illness in the future or that we will not be subject to claims or lawsuits relating to such matters. Even if a product liability claim is unsuccessful, the negative publicity surrounding any assertion that our products caused illness or injury could adversely affect our reputation with existing and potential customers and our brand image. In addition, claims or liabilities of this sort might not be covered by our insurance or by any rights of indemnity or contribution that we may have against others. We maintain product liability insurance in an amount that we believe is adequate. However, we cannot be sure that we will not incur claims or liabilities for which we are not insured or that exceed the amount of our insurance coverage, resulting in significant cash outlays that would materially and adversely affect our results and financial condition.
We are subject to legal and environmental risks that could result in significant cash outlays.
We are involved in several legal and environmental matters that, if not resolved in our favor, could require significant cash outlays and could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. In addition, we may be subject to product liability claims if personal injury results from the consumption of any of our products. In addition, although the fresh-cut produce market is not currently subject to any specific governmental regulations, we cannot predict whether or when any regulation will be implemented or the scope of any possible regulation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) has placed a certain site at our former plantation in Oahu, Hawaii on the National Priorities List under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. Under an order entered into with the EPA, we completed a remedial investigation and engaged in a feasibility study to determine the extent of the environmental contamination. The remedial investigation report was finalized on January 21, 1999 and approved by the EPA in February 1999. A final draft feasibility study was submitted for EPA review in December 1999 and updated in December 2001 and October 2002, and approved by the EPA on April 22, 2003. On September 25, 2003, the EPA issued the Record of Decision (“ROD”). The EPA estimates in the ROD that the remediation costs associated with the cleanup of our plantation will range from $12.9 million to $25.4 million. Certain portions of the EPA’s estimates have been discounted using a 5% interest rate. The undiscounted estimates are between $14.8 million to $28.7 million. As of January 1, 2010, there is $19.4 million included in other noncurrent liabilities and $0.5 included in accounts payable and accrued expenses in our Consolidated Balance Sheets relating to the Kunia well site clean-up. We expect to expend approximately $0.5 million per year on this matter for the next five years. See Item 3. Legal Proceedings and Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data. In addition, we are involved in several actions in U.S. and non-U.S. courts involving allegations by numerous Central American and Philippine plaintiffs that they were injured by exposure to a nematocide containing the chemical Dibromochloropropane (“DBCP”) during the 1970’s. See Item 3. Legal Proceedings and Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.
Environmental and other regulation of our business, including potential climate change regulation, could adversely impact us by increasing our production cost or restricting our ability to import certain products into the United States.
Our business depends on the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural products. The use and disposal of these products in some jurisdictions are subject to regulation by various agencies. A decision by a regulatory agency to significantly restrict the use of such products that have traditionally been used in the cultivation of one of our principal products could have an adverse impact on us. For example, most uses of methyl bromide, a pesticide used for fumigation of imported produce (principally melons) for which there is currently no known substitute, were phased out in the United States in 2006, however, various exemptions will allow its use offshore until 2015. Also, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, the EPA is undertaking a series of regulatory actions relating to the evaluation and use of pesticides in the food industry. Similarly, in the EU, regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 will apply starting June 14, 2011 and will fundamentally change the pesticide approval process from the current risk base to hazard criteria based on the intrinsic properties of the substance. These actions and future actions regarding the availability and use of pesticides could have an adverse effect on us. In addition, if a regulatory agency were to determine that we are not in compliance with a regulation in that agency’s jurisdiction, this could result in substantial penalties and a ban on the sale of part or all of our products in that jurisdiction.
There has been a broad range of proposed and promulgated state, national and international regulation aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. Such regulations apply or could apply in countries where we have interests or may have interests in the future. In the United States, there is a significant possibility that some form of regulation will be forthcoming at the federal level to address the effects of climate change. Such regulation could take any of several forms that result in the creation of additional costs in the form of taxes, the restriction of output, investments of capital to maintain compliance with laws and regulations, or required acquisition or trading of emission allowances. Climate change regulation continues to evolve, and while it is not possible to accurately estimate either a timetable for implementation or our future compliance costs relating to implementation, we do not believe that such regulation is reasonably likely to have a material effect in the foreseeable future on our business, results of operations, capital expenditures or financial position.
We are exposed to political, economic and other risks from operating a multinational business.
Our business is multinational and subject to the political, economic and other risks that are inherent in operating in numerous countries. These risks include those of adverse government regulation, including the imposition of import and export duties and quotas, currency restrictions, expropriation and potentially burdensome taxation. For example, banana import regulations have in prior years restricted our access to the EU banana market and increased the cost of doing business in the EU. On December 15, 2009, the EU entered into an agreement with certain Latin America banana exporting countries to settle the long running dispute over banana import tariffs. The EU will gradually reduce import tariffs on bananas from Latin America from the current level of €176 per ton to €114 per ton in 2017. The largest reduction in the import tariff of €28 per ton will be retroactively effective to December 15, 2009, once the national lawmakers ratify the agreement. This agreement is expected to be ratified during the first half of 2010.
We have a contract to purchase all of the banana production from an entity controlled by the Government of Cameroon. In 2007, we signed a new banana purchasing agreement with our Cameroon partner, effective May 1, 2008 and terminating on December 31, 2008 with automatic one-year renewal and a cancellation notice period of 12 months. This contract was automatically renewed for 2009 and once more for 2010. Effective January 1, 2010, the cancelation notice period has been extended to 36 months. The Government of Cameroon has declared again its intention to privatize these banana plantations in the future. Since bananas produced in Cameroon benefit from certain banana import preferences and tax exemptions in the EU, privatization may have a negative effect on our results of operations.
Costa Rica and Ecuador, countries in which we operate, have established “minimum” export prices for bananas that are used as the reference point in banana purchase contracts from independent producers, thus limiting our ability to negotiate lower purchase prices. These minimum export price requirements could potentially increase the cost of sourcing bananas in countries that have established such requirements.
We are also subject to a variety of government regulations in countries where we market our products, including the United States, the countries of the EU, Asia, countries of the Middle East and Africa. Examples of the types of regulation we face include:
If we fail to comply with applicable regulations, it could result in an order barring the sale of part or all of a particular shipment of our products or, possibly, the sale of any of our products for a specified period. Such a development could result in significant losses and could weaken our financial condition.
The distribution of our fresh produce in Southern Europe could be adversely affected if we fail to maintain our distribution arrangement.
We import and distribute a substantial portion of our fresh produce in Southern Europe through a marketing entity with which we have an exclusive arrangement. If we were to discontinue this exclusive arrangement, our ability to import and distribute our fresh produce products in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region may be affected. On June 16, 2008, as a result of continuing disagreements with this distributor related to operational issues, we delivered our formal notice that we will cease all business with them by December 31, 2011. We are continuing to negotiate with this distributor in order to establish a revised distribution agreement. Our inability to successfully establish a new agreement could affect the distribution of our fresh produce products in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region and may have a negative effect on our results of operations.
Acts or omissions of other companies could adversely affect the value of the DEL MONTE® brand.
We depend on the DEL MONTE® brand in marketing our products. We share the DEL MONTE® brand with unaffiliated companies that manufacture, distribute and sell canned or processed fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, snacks and other products. Acts or omissions by these companies, including an instance of food-borne contamination or disease, may adversely affect the value of the DEL MONTE® brand. Our reputation and the value of the DEL MONTE® brand may be adversely affected by negative consumer perception of this brand.
Our success depends on the services of our senior executives, the loss of whom could disrupt our operations.
Our ability to maintain our competitive position is dependent to a large degree on the services of our senior management team. We may not be able to retain our existing senior management personnel or attract additional qualified senior management personnel.
Our acquisition and expansion strategy may not be successful.
Our growth strategy is based in part on growth through acquisitions or expansion, which poses a number of risks. We may not be successful in identifying appropriate acquisition candidates, consummating acquisitions on satisfactory terms or integrating any newly acquired or expanded business with our current operations. We may issue Ordinary Shares, incur long-term or short-term indebtedness, spend cash or use a combination of these for all or part of the consideration paid in future acquisitions or to expand our operations. The execution of our acquisition and expansion strategy may entail repositioning or similar actions that in turn require us to record impairments, restructuring and other charges. Any such charges would reduce our earnings.
Our indebtedness could limit our financial and operating flexibility and subject us to other risks.
Our ability to obtain additional debt financing or refinance our debt in the future for working capital, capital expenditures or acquisitions may be limited either by financial considerations or due to covenants in existing loan agreements. Our principal working capital revolving credit facility was refinanced on July 17, 2009. The new credit facility has an outstanding balance of $309.7 million as of January 1, 2010.
Our ability to meet our financial obligations will depend on our future performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. Our ability to meet our financial obligations also may be adversely affected by the seasonal nature of our business, the cyclical nature of agricultural commodity prices, the susceptibility of our product sourcing to crop disease, severe weather and other adverse environmental conditions and other factors.
Since we are an exempted holding company, our ability to meet our financial obligations depends primarily on receiving sufficient funds from our subsidiaries. The payment of dividends or other distributions to us by our subsidiaries may be restricted by the provisions of our credit agreements and other contractual requirements and by applicable legal restrictions on payment of dividends.
If we were unable to meet our financial obligations, we would be forced to pursue one or more alternative strategies, such as selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our indebtedness or seeking additional equity capital, strategies which might not be successful. Additional sales of our equity capital could substantially dilute the ownership interest of existing shareholders.
Our new credit facility imposes operating and financial restrictions on our activities. Our failure to comply with the obligations under this facility, including maintenance of financial ratios, could result in an event of default, which, if not cured or waived, would permit acceleration by the lender of the indebtedness due under the facility.
We are controlled by our principal shareholders.
Members of the Abu-Ghazaleh family, including our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and one of our directors, are our principal shareholders. Together, as of February 22, 2010, they beneficially own approximately 34% of our outstanding Ordinary Shares, and our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer holds, and is expected to continue to hold, an irrevocable annual proxy to vote all of these shares. We expect our principal shareholders to continue to use their interest in our Ordinary Shares to direct our management, to significantly influence the election of our entire board of directors, to determine the method and timing of the payment of dividends also limited by debt covenants, to determine substantially all other matters requiring shareholder approval and to control us. The concentration of our beneficial ownership may have the effect of delaying, deterring or preventing a change in control, may discourage bids for the Ordinary Shares at a premium over their market price and may otherwise adversely affect the market price of the Ordinary Shares.
A substantial number of our Ordinary Shares are available for sale in the public market, and sales of those shares could adversely affect our share price.
Future sales of our Ordinary Shares by our principal shareholders, or the perception that such sales could occur, could adversely affect the prevailing market price of our Ordinary Shares. Of the 63,600,150 Ordinary Shares outstanding as of February 22, 2010, 21,565,457 Ordinary Shares are owned by the principal shareholders and are “restricted securities.” These “restricted” Ordinary Shares can be registered upon demand and are eligible for sale in the public market without registration under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), subject to compliance with the resale volume limitations and other restrictions of Rule 144 under the Securities Act.
Our organizational documents contain a variety of anti-takeover provisions that could delay, deter or prevent a change in control.
Various provisions of our organizational documents and Cayman Islands law may delay, deter or prevent a change in control of us that is not approved by our board of directors. These provisions include:
In addition, a change of control would constitute an event of default under our new credit facility, which would have a material adverse effect on us. These provisions also could delay, deter or prevent a takeover attempt.
Our shareholders have limited rights under Cayman Islands law.
We are incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands, and our corporate affairs are governed by our Memorandum and Articles of Association and by the Companies Law (As Revised) of the Cayman Islands. Principles of law relating to matters, such as the validity of corporate procedures, the fiduciary duties of our management, directors and controlling shareholders and the rights of our shareholders differ from those that would apply if we were incorporated in a jurisdiction within the United States. Further, the rights of shareholders under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as the rights of shareholders under legislation or judicial precedent applicable in most U.S. jurisdictions. As a result, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by the management, directors or controlling shareholders than they might have as shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, there is doubt as to whether the courts of the Cayman Islands would enforce, either in an original action or in an action for enforcement of judgments of U.S. courts, liabilities that are predicated upon the U.S. federal securities laws.
The following table summarizes the approximate plantation acreage under production that are owned or leased by us and the principal products grown on such plantations by location as of the end of 2009:
We also lease land in Argentina on a seasonal basis for our grain operations. Our significant properties include the following:
We operate a total of 22 distribution centers in the United States of which nine are also fresh-cut facilities. We own seven of our distribution centers, including a 200,000 square foot distribution center in Dallas, Texas, a distribution center in Plant City, Florida and a repack facility in Winder, Georgia. The remaining 15 distribution centers are leased from third parties. All of our distribution centers have ripening capabilities and/or other value-added services. Also included are two stand-alone fresh-cut facilities that we own in Kankakee, Illinois and Portland, Oregon. In addition, we lease four port facilities that include cold storage capabilities.
We operate three distribution centers, mostly under leases from third parties, in the United Kingdom and own one and lease two distribution centers in Germany, where our products are distributed to leading retail chains. We also own and operate two fresh-cut facilities in the United Kingdom. In Poland, we operate two distribution centers that are leased from third parties and include ripening facilities and other value added services. We own and operate a production facility for prepared fruit, tomato products and snacks in Larissa, Greece.
Our products are distributed from four leased distribution centers located at strategic ports in Japan with cold storage and banana ripening operations. In addition, we own three distribution centers in South Korea and lease a distribution center in Hong Kong. Our South Korean distribution centers include state-of-the art ripening technology and other value-added services. We also own and operate one fresh-cut facility in Japan.
We own and operate grain silos in Argentina. In Uruguay, we own approximately 9,600 acres of which 7,400 acres contain a citrus plantation that is leased to a third party on a five-year basis.
We own and operate a warehouse and cannery in Thika, Kenya. In Tulbagh, South Africa, we own and operate a production facility for prepared non-tropical fruit. The total amount of land owned in South Africa is approximately 700 acres.
In Jordan, we own an integrated poultry business including poultry farms, a grain mill and a poultry slaughterhouse and a meat processing plant. We also own a combined distribution/manufacturing center in Dubai, UAE. This state-of-the-art facility includes banana ripening and cold storage facilities, fresh-cut fruit and vegetable operations and an ultra fresh juice manufacturing operation. In addition, we operate a distribution center under an operating lease from a third party in Abu-Dhabi, UAE that includes banana ripening and cold storage facilities. In Saudi Arabia, we own 60% of a joint venture, which has initiated an expansion program that includes the construction of two owned distribution centers with banana ripening, cold storage facilities and future manufacturing capabilities. One of the distribution centers was completed in December 2009 and the second is planned for completion in the first quarter of 2010.
Maritime and Other Equipment (including Containers)
We own a fleet of 16 and charter another 17 refrigerated vessels. In addition, we own or lease other related equipment, including approximately 6,100 refrigerated container units and 170 trucks and refrigerated trailers used to transport our fresh produce in the United States.
We own our U.S. executive headquarters building in Coral Gables, Florida, our Central America regional headquarters building in San Jose, Costa Rica and our South America regional headquarters building in Santiago, Chile. We own our office space in Guatemala City, Guatemala and Amman, Jordan. Our remaining office space in North America, Europe, Asia, Central and South America is leased from third parties.
We believe that our property, plant and equipment are well maintained, in good operating condition and adequate for their present needs. Except as noted in Item 3. Legal Proceedings and Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, we know of no other environmental issues that may affect the utilization of our property plant and equipment. For further information with respect to our property, plant and equipment, see Note 8, “Property, Plant and Equipment” to the Consolidated Financial Statements filed as part of this Report.
The principal capital expenditures planned for 2010 are approximately $103.0 million, consisting of expansion and improvements of production facilities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Kenya and the Philippines and distribution facilities in North America and the United Kingdom. We expect to fund our capital expenditures in 2010 through operating cash flows and borrowings under credit facilities.
See Note 18, “Litigation” to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.
Ordinary Share Prices and Related Matters
Our Ordinary Shares are traded solely on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol FDP, and commenced trading on October 24, 1997, the date of our initial public offering.
The following table presents the high and low sales prices of our Ordinary Shares for the periods indicated as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape:
We have not paid dividends for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. Because we are an exempted holding company, our ability to pay dividends and to meet our debt service obligations depends primarily on receiving sufficient funds from our subsidiaries. Pursuant to the new credit facility, we may declare and pay dividends and distributions in cash solely out of and up to 50% of our net income for the year immediately preceding the year in which the dividend or distribution is paid; provided that we may declare dividends in cash solely out of and up to 70% of our net income for the fiscal year immediately preceding the year in which the dividend or distribution is paid if, after giving effect to such dividend payment, we have a leverage ratio of 2.50 to 1.00 for such year. It is also possible that countries in which one or more of our subsidiaries are located could institute exchange controls, which could prevent those subsidiaries from remitting dividends or other payments to us. Dividends are payable when, as and if declared by our board of directors, and we cannot assure you that dividends will be paid in the future.
As of February 22, 2010, we had 106 shareholders of record, which excludes shareholders whose shares were held by brokerage firms, depositories and other institutional firms in “street name”.
The graph below matches the cumulative five-year total return of holders of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.'s common stock with the cumulative total returns of the S&P 500 index and the S&P 500 Food Products index. The graph assumes that the value of the investment in the Company's common stock and in each of the indexes (including reinvestment of dividends) was $100 on December 31, 2004 and tracks it through January 1, 2010.
The stock price performance included in this graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
Share Repurchase Program
The following table provides information regarding our purchases of Ordinary Shares during the periods indicated:
Our fiscal year end is the last Friday of the calendar year or the first Friday subsequent to the end of the calendar year, whichever is closest to the end of the calendar year.
The following selected financial data for the years ended December 30, 2005, December 29, 2006, December 28, 2007, December 26, 2008 and January 1, 2010 is derived from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements for the applicable year, prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.
The following selected financial data should be read in conjunction with Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and our Consolidated Financial Statements and accompanying notes contained in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data in this Report.
We are one of the world’s leading vertically integrated producers, marketers and distributors of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, as well as a leading producer and marketer of prepared fruit and vegetables, juices, beverages and snacks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We market our products worldwide under the DEL MONTE® brand, a symbol of product innovation, quality, freshness and reliability since 1892. Our global sourcing and logistics system allows us to provide regular delivery of consistently high-quality produce and value-added services to our customers. Our major producing operations are located in North, Central and South America, Asia and Africa. Production operations are aggregated on the basis of our products: bananas, other fresh produce, prepared foods and other products and services. Other fresh produce includes pineapples, melons, tomatoes, non-tropical fruit (including grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, avocados, citrus and kiwis), fresh-cut produce and other fruit and vegetables. Prepared foods include prepared fruit and vegetables, juices, beverages, snacks, poultry and meat products. Other products and services includes a plastic product and box manufacturing business, a grain business and third-party ocean freight services.
Our strategy is focused on a combination of maximizing revenues from our existing infrastructure, entering new markets and strict cost control initiatives. We plan to continue to capitalize on the growing global demand for fresh produce and expand our reach into existing and new markets. We expect sales growth of fresh produce in key markets by increasing sales volume and per unit sales prices as permitted by market conditions. Our recent acquisitions have substantially increased our production capability of bananas, pineapples and melon and provide the potential over time for significant operating efficiencies and synergies. In addition, our number one position in the gold pineapple market has been further strengthened. Our strategy includes increasing volumes from existing production and distribution facilities in order to improve operating efficiencies and reduce per unit costs. We plan additional investments in growth markets by adding distribution facilities and expanding our value-added services.
Our net sales are affected by numerous factors, including mainly the balance between the supply of and demand for our produce and competition from other fresh produce companies. Our net sales are also dependent on our ability to supply a consistent volume and quality of fresh produce to the markets we serve. For example, seasonal variations in demand for bananas as a result of increased supply and competition from other fruit are reflected in the seasonal fluctuations in banana prices, with the first six months of each year generally exhibiting stronger demand and higher prices, except in those years where an excess supply exists. During 2009, generally, bananas were in short supply at certain times of the year, which contributed to a 4% improvement in our worldwide per unit sales prices. In the processed foods business, we generally realize the largest portion of our net sales and gross profit in the third and fourth quarters of the year. During 2009, our prepared food net sales were negatively affected by the current challenging economic conditions, principally in the U.K. market, which resulted in lower sales volume.
Since our financial reporting currency is the U.S. dollar, our net sales are significantly affected by fluctuations in the value of the currency in which we conduct our sales versus the dollar, with a weak dollar versus such currencies resulting in increased net sales in dollar terms. Including the effect of our foreign currency hedges, net sales for 2009 were negatively impacted by approximately $80.3 million, as compared to 2008, principally as a result of a weaker British pound, South Korean won, euro and Polish zloty, partially offset by a stronger Japanese yen, versus the U.S. dollar.
Our net sales growth in recent years has been achieved primarily through increased sales volume in existing markets of other fresh produce, primarily pineapples, melons and non-tropical fruit, and favorable pricing on our Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet pineapple combined with increased sales volume and per unit sales prices of bananas in existing and new markets. During 2009, our net sales were positively affected by higher sales volume of bananas, gold pineapples and melons that resulted from our recent acquisitions and production expansion, which were offset principally by lower net sales of prepared food and other products and services. Also positively impacting our sales in 2009 were higher sales volumes of avocados in North America. Our net sales growth in recent years is also attributable to a broadening of our product line with the expansion of our fresh-cut produce business and our expansion into new markets. We expect our net sales growth to continue to be driven by increased sales volumes in our banana, other fresh produce and the prepared food segments. As a result of our 2008 acquisitions and expansion of our production of banana, gold pineapple and melon operations, we expect a further increase in net sales of these products in North America, Europe and the Middle East. In the Middle East, we expect to increase our net sales of our fresh produce and prepared food product offerings as a result of our expansion in the Saudi Arabian market. We also expect to increase our sales by developing new products in the prepared food segment, targeting the convenience store and foodservice trade in selected European and Middle East markets.
Cost of Products Sold
Cost of products sold is principally composed of two elements, product and logistics costs. Product cost for our produce is primarily composed of cultivation (the cost of growing crops), harvesting, packaging, labor, depreciation and farm administration. Product cost for produce obtained from independent growers is composed of produce and packaging costs. Logistics costs include land and sea transportation and expenses related to port facilities and distribution centers. Sea transportation cost is the most significant component of logistics costs and is comprised of the cost of vessel operating expenses and chartering refrigerated vessels. Vessel operating expenses for our owned vessels include operations, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, fuel (the cost of which is subject to commodity price fluctuations), and port charges. For chartered vessels, operating expenses include the cost of chartering the vessels, fuel and port charges. Variations in containerboard prices, which affect the cost of boxes and other packaging materials, and fuel prices can have a significant impact on our product cost and our profit margins. Also, variations in the production yields, fertilizers and other input costs and the cost to procure products from independent growers can have a significant impact on our costs. Containerboard, plastic, resin and fuel prices have historically been volatile. During 2008, the cost of fuel increased by 42% and containerboard increased by 11%. This increase in containerboard and fuel prices added approximately $48.0 million to cost of products sold in 2008 as compared to 2007. During 2009, fuel prices decreased by 32% and containerboard decreased 24% as compared with 2008, reducing cost of products sold by $67.0 million. This decrease in cost of products sold that resulted from lower fuel and containerboard prices was partially offset by an increase in production costs due to lower yields and higher input costs and increased cost of produce from independent growers of approximately $75.0 million and a charge of $17.2 million related to growing crop inventory as a result of our decision to discontinue pineapple operations in Brazil.
In general, changes in our volume of products sold can have a disproportionate effect on our gross profit. Within any particular year, a significant portion of our cost of products sold is fixed, both with respect to our operations and with respect to the cost of produce purchased from independent growers from whom we have agreed to purchase all the products they produce. Accordingly, higher volumes produced on company-owned farms directly reduce the average per-box cost, while lower volumes directly increase the average per-box cost. In addition, because the volume that will actually be produced on our farms and by independent growers in any given year depends on a variety of factors, including weather, that are beyond our control or the control of our independent growers, it is difficult to predict volumes and per-box costs.
Since our financial reporting currency is the U.S. dollar, our costs are affected by fluctuations in the value of the currency in which we have significant operations versus the dollar, with a weak dollar versus those currencies resulting in increased costs. During 2009, cost of products sold was favorably impacted by approximately $75.1 million as a result of a stronger U.S. dollar versus the various currencies in which we have significant operations.
Selling, General and Administrative Expenses
Selling, general and administrative expenses primarily include the costs associated with selling in countries where we have our own sales force, advertising and promotional expenses, professional fees, general corporate overhead and other related administrative functions.
Gain on Sales of Property, Plant and Equipment
Gain on sales of property, plant and equipment was $11.2 million in 2009 principally as a result of the sale of five refrigerated vessels and properties in South America and Africa. In 2008, the gain on sales of property, plant and equipment of $7.5 million resulted primarily from the sale of land and equipment in South America.
Asset Impairment and Other Charges, Net
Asset impairment and other charges, net were $8.0 million in 2009 as compared with $18.4 million in 2008, a decrease of $10.4 million. In 2009, we recorded asset impairment and other charges totaling $10.9 million as a result of our decision to discontinue pineapple planting in Brazil and our decision to not use certain property, plant and equipment as originally intended for other crop production. During 2009, we also incurred charges of $1.2 million for termination benefits and contract termination costs resulting from our decision to discontinue our commercial cargo service in Germany, a $2.0 million impairment charge of the DEL MONTE® perpetual, royalty-free brand name license for beverage products in the United Kingdom due to lower than expected sales volume and pricing and a $2.8 million asset impairment charge related to an intangible asset for a non-compete agreement as a result of the Caribana acquisition. These charges were partially offset by $5.5 million of credits due to the reversal of contract termination costs as a result of the closure of an under-utilized distribution center in the United Kingdom, and the discontinuance of retiree medical benefits and the reversal of contract termination costs related to the closing of our Hawaii pineapple operations. Also included in asset impairments and other charges, net, for 2009 was $3.4 million of insurance recoveries related to the 2008 floods of our Brazil banana operations.
Asset impairment and other charges were $18.4 million in 2008 as compared with $12.5 million in 2007, an increase of $5.9 million. In 2008, we recorded asset impairment charges totaling $11.3 million as a result of extensive flood damage at our banana farms in Brazil and Costa Rica and $10.0 million principally due to the closure of under-utilized distribution centers and the previously announced closure of our beverage production operation in the United Kingdom combined with related contract termination costs related to the banana and prepared food segments. During 2008, we also recorded a net benefit of approximately $2.9 million related to the previously announced closing of our Hawaii pineapple operations.
In 2007, we recorded asset impairment and other charges, net of $12.5 million, consisting of $16.9 million related to exit activities principally in Europe and South America. In addition, as a result of the decision to exit all production activities in Hawaii in 2006, we recorded a net gain of $4.4 million during 2007 which consisted of a curtailment gain related to the retiree medical plan, partially offset by additional severance and other exit activity charges.
Interest expense consists primarily of interest on borrowings under working capital facilities that we maintain and interest on other long-term debt primarily for capital lease obligations. In 2009, our interest expense declined, reflecting a slight decrease in our average outstanding debt and lower average interest rates, partially offset by the write-off of debt issuance cost related to the refinancing of the term loan previously being amortized through May 10, 2011.
Other Income (Expense), Net
Other income (expense), net, primarily consists of currency exchange gains or losses, equity gains and losses in unconsolidated companies and other miscellaneous income and expense items. During 2009, we recorded currency exchange losses that resulted primarily from unfavorable exchange rate movements in the euro, British pound and other currencies versus the U.S. dollar.
Provision for (Benefit from) Income Taxes
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes was a benefit of $(12.8) million in 2009 related principally to $13.6 million of net changes in the deferred tax valuation allowance due to expected utilization of deferred tax assets as a result of increased profitability of our North America operations combined with the settlement of certain tax positions in connection with an audit. Income taxes consist of the consolidation of the tax provisions, computed on a separate entity basis, in each country in which we have operations. Since we are a non-U.S. company with substantial operations outside the United States, a substantial portion of our results of operations is not subject to U.S. taxation. Many of the countries in which we operate have favorable tax rates. We are subject to U.S. taxation on our operations in the United States. From time to time, tax authorities in various jurisdictions in which we operate audit our tax returns and review our business structures and positions and there are audits presently pending in various countries. There can be no assurance that any tax audits, or changes in existing tax laws or interpretations in countries in which we operate, will not result in an increased effective tax rate for us. We have established tax accruals for uncertain tax positions, including those relating to various tax audits currently in process. The amount of income taxes due as a result of the eventual outcome of these audits may differ from the amount of estimated tax accruals.
Results of Operations
The following table presents, for each of the periods indicated, certain income statement data expressed as a percentage of net sales:
The following tables present for each of the periods indicated (i) net sales by geographic region, (ii) net sales by product category and (iii) gross profit (loss) by product category and, in each case, the percentage of the total represented thereby:
2009 Compared with 2008
Cost of Products Sold
Cost of products sold was $3,185.6 million in 2009 compared with $3,187.0 million in 2008, a decrease of $1.4 million. This decrease in cost of products sold was primarily attributable to lower ocean freight rates that resulted from lower fuel prices, favorable exchange rates and $2.1 million of insurance proceeds related to the 2008 Brazil flood damage, partially offset by an increase in production costs due to lower yields and higher input costs and increased cost of produce from independent growers and a charge of $17.2 million related to growing crop inventory as a result of our decision to discontinue pineapple operations in Brazil.
Gross profit was $310.8 million in 2009 compared with $344.0 million in 2008, a decrease of $33.2 million. The decrease in gross profit was attributable to lower gross profit on other fresh produce, bananas and other products and services, partially offset by higher gross profit on prepared food.
Selling, General and Administrative Expenses
Selling, general and administrative expenses increased $3.3 million to $165.8 million in 2009 compared with $162.5 million in 2008. The increase was primarily due to higher marketing and selling expenses in Europe and the Middle East as a result of our efforts to support brand awareness, combined with higher professional fees and employee benefit expenses.
Gain on Sales of Property, Plant and Equipment
Gain on sales of property, plant and equipment was $11.2 million in 2009 principally as a result of the sale of five refrigerated vessels and properties in South America and Africa. In 2008, the gain on sales of property, plant and equipment of $7.5 million resulted primarily from the sale of land and equipment in South America.
Asset Impairment and Other Charges
Asset impairment and other charges, net were $8.0 million in 2009 as compared with $18.4 million in 2008, a decrease of $10.4 million.
Asset impairment and other charges (credits) for 2009 were as follows:
Asset impairments and other charges for 2008 were as follows:
Operating income in 2009 was $148.2 million compared with an operating income of $170.6 million in 2008, a decrease of $22.4 million. The decrease in operating income is attributable to lower gross profit and higher selling, general and administrative expense, partially offset by increased gain on sales of property, plant and equipment and lower asset impairment and other charges.
Interest expense was $11.9 million in 2009 as compared with $14.5 million in 2008, a decrease of $2.6 million. The lower interest expense in 2009 reflects a slight decrease in our average outstanding debt and lower average interest rates, partially offset by the write-off of debt issuance cost related to the refinancing of our term loan that was previously being amortized through May 10, 2011.
Other Income (Expense), Net
Other income (expense), net was a loss of $(5.2) million in 2009 compared with income of $4.5 million in 2008. The loss in 2009 was principally due to $6.4 million in foreign exchange losses primarily as a result of unfavorable exchange rates for the euro and British pound as compared with $6.5 million in foreign exchange gains in 2008. Partially offsetting the foreign exchange losses incurred in 2009 were higher equity earnings from unconsolidated subsidiaries.
Provision for (Benefit from) Income Taxes
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes was a benefit of $(12.8) million in 2009 as compared with a provision of $4.8 million in 2008. The benefit from income taxes for 2009 related principally to $13.6 million of net changes in the deferred tax valuation allowance due to expected utilization of deferred tax assets as a result of increased profitability of our North America operations combined with the settlement of certain tax positions in connection with an audit.
2008 Compared with 2007
Net sales in 2008 were $3,531.0 million compared with $3,365.5 million in 2007. The increase in net sales of $165.5 million was primarily attributable to higher net sales of bananas and other products and services, partially offset by lower net sales of other fresh produce and prepared food. Net sales of bananas increased by $221.2 million due to higher per unit sales prices in all regions and higher sales volume in North America and the Middle East, partially offset by lower sales volume in Europe and Asia. On a worldwide basis, per unit sales prices increased 14%. The Caribana acquisition contributed to the increase in sales volume in North America. Net sales in the other products and services segment increased $16.4 million primarily due to increased sales in the Argentina grain and Chile plastic businesses. Net sales in the other fresh produce segment decreased by $55.1 million principally due to lower sales of melons, tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and fresh-cut produce, partially offset by higher sales of gold pineapples and non-tropical fruit. Melon sales decreased due to a 12% decrease in sales volumes that resulted primarily from unfavorable growing conditions in Central America and North America. Sales of tomatoes, potatoes and other vegetables decreased primarily due to lower sales volume resulting from continuing product rationalization in North America and the salmonella outbreak in the United States originally linked to tomatoes. Sales of fresh-cut produce decreased due to the economic downturn affecting North America and Europe, which has resulted in consumers buying less expensive whole fruit as compared to pre-cut products. Sales of gold pineapples increased as a result of an 8% increase in sales volume primarily as a result of the Caribana acquisition, partially offset by a slight decrease in per unit sales prices. Sales of non-tropical fruit increased primarily due to higher per unit sales prices. Net sales in the prepared food segment decreased $17.0 million primarily as a result of the weakening British pound as compared to the U.S. dollar combined with increased sales of inventory on-hand that occurred during 2007 as a resulted from the conversion to independent distributors in the U.K. and Benelux markets, partially offset by higher sales in the Jordanian poultry and prepared meat business.
Cost of Products Sold
Cost of products sold was $3,187.0 million in 2008 compared with $3,000.6 million in 2007, an increase of $186.4 million. This increase in cost of products sold was primarily attributable to higher fruit costs resulting from increase input prices and procurement costs combined with negative foreign exchange impact as currencies in producing countries strengthened against the U.S. dollar as well as increased ocean freight that resulted from higher fuel prices, vessel operating expenses and charter rates. Also contributing to the increase in cost of sales were approximately $3.0 million in charges incurred principally related to wages paid to idled workers and write-offs of packaging materials and other clean-up costs as a result of extensive flood damage to our banana farms in Brazil and Costa Rica combined with a credit of $3.0 million for insurance proceeds related to the Kenya product recall that was included in cost of product sold in 2007.
Gross profit was $344.0 million in 2008 compared with $364.9 million in 2007, a decrease of $20.9 million. The decrease in gross profit was primarily attributable to lower gross profit on the other fresh produce segment of $69.4 million and lower gross profit on the prepared food segment of $7.8 million, partially offset by higher gross profit on bananas of $56.7 million.
Gross profit on other fresh produce decreased principally as a result of lower gross profit on gold pineapples, fresh-cut products and melons, partially offset by higher gross profit on non-tropical fruit. Gross profit on gold pineapples decreased principally as a result of a 15% increase in per unit fruit costs that resulted from higher production costs and higher ocean freight costs. Gross profit on fresh-cut produce decreased principally as a result of a 17% increase in cost due to higher production costs as a result of labor shortages in North America and higher input costs combined with a 10% reduction in sales volume due to a weaker economic environment. Gross profit on melons decreased principally due to a reduction in sales volume that resulted from poor production conditions in North and Central America, which also contributed to a 10% increase in cost.
Gross profit on prepared food decreased principally as a result of higher production and transportation costs and as a result of our decision to market our prepared food products through independent distributors in the United Kingdom, Italy and the Benelux countries, which was offset by lower selling, general and administrative expenses as indicated below.
Gross profit on bananas increased primarily due to higher per unit selling prices in all regions and higher sales volumes in North America and the Middle East, partially offset by higher input, procurement and ocean freight costs. On a per unit basis, worldwide banana pricing increased 14% while total costs increased 10%.
Selling, General and Administrative Expenses
Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased $14.3 million to $162.5 million in 2008 compared with $176.8 million in 2007. The decrease was primarily due to lower selling and marketing expenses in Europe as a result of our decision to market our prepared food products through independent distributors in the United Kingdom, Italy and the Benelux countries.
Gain on Sales of Property, Plant and Equipment
Gain on sales of property, plant and equipment was $7.5 million in 2008 principally as a result of the sale of land and equipment in South America. In 2007, the gain on sales of property, plant and equipment of $17.4 million was principally due to our disposal of non-performing assets, the sale of a refrigerated vessel and the insurance proceeds related to the accidental loss of another vessel.
Asset Impairment and Other Charges
Asset impairment and other charges were $18.4 million in 2008 as compared with $12.5 million in 2007, an increase of $5.9 million. In 2008, we recorded asset impairment totaling $11.3 million as a result of extensive flood damage at our banana farms in Brazil and Costa Rica and $10.0 million principally due to the closure of under-utilized distribution centers and the previously announced closure of our beverage production operation in the United Kingdom combined with related contract termination cost related to the banana and prepared food segments. During 2008, we also recorded a net benefit of approximately $2.9 million related to the previously announced closing of our Hawaii pineapple operations related to the other fresh produce segment.