MAKATI CITY Philippines "" Dole Asia Ltd. is pursuing a joint venture agreement with Pacific Rim Brokers Inc. of Guam to establish an agro-industrial project on the island.

In an exclusive interview with the Journal Peter R. Sgro chairman of PRBI said the main purpose of the joint venture "is to establish a farm on Guam and a packaging facility for local sellers [of produce] and exports."

He said that the project will also "create a tourist attraction which could give visitors to Guam the opportunity to plant or harvest produce."

The details of the joint venture were revealed in a breakfast meeting between Dole Asia officials led by James Prideaux president of Dole Asia PRBI’s Sgro and Gov. Felix P. Camacho. PRBI is Guam’s exclusive importer of Dole Asia produce for the Dole Freesh Division IQF or quick frozen products and certain packaged products. PRBI goods retail only Payless Supermarkets in Guam and have also been shipped to a broker in Los Angeles. The meeting was held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City on March 16 at the 2006 Spring Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce.

Prideux told the governor that the project also included support for local farmers through training programs as well as those who will work on Dole’s farm and the direct import of bananas into Guam through PRBI.

Sgro told the Journal that the total capitalization for the joint venture has yet to be determined. But he said Dole and PRBI are "looking to create a new business entity [for the joint venture to be called] Dole Guam Ltd." Dole Asia will own 51% of the company with the rest of the shares to be owned by PRBI.

In a separate e-mail interview Frank Arriola president of PRBI; said "At this point the initial capitalization is currently being reviewed. Dole’s financial personnel are reviewing the various scenarios that have been discussed over the past 12 months and the associated startup costs. We expect to nail this down within 60 days."

He said that the joint venture will not compete with local farmers whose produce are already currently being purchased by local supermarkets. "The Dole Guam venture would focus on that produce which are currently being imported. We do not expect to compete with local farmers and their current offerings. If there is something which is currently imported not currently grown by local farmers and can be grown on Guam then Dole would pursue growing this product."

Arriola said the top produce being imported by Guam are bananas cantaloupe honeydew apples oranges lettuce tomatoes cabbage broccoli and cauliflower.

The joint venture is also studying the possibility of growing and exporting strawberries asparagus and capsicum to Japan and Korea. He said these crops are currently not produced in those countries.

The joint venture is seen as filling paart of a large demand for fruits and vegetables on Guam. For example Payless Supermarkets annually purchases about $6 million in total produce and about $800 000 worth from Guam farmers Arriola said.

Sgro said his company is now looking at three different sites on Guam as possible areas for farming. Dole scientists are expected to arrive on the island in April to look at the sites "and conduct soil tests to determine the best location [for the agro-industrial facility]."

Arriola enumerated several reasons the company decided to go into a venture with Dole which it has been representing for the past two years.

"We see this as a tremendous opportunity not only for our company but for the island of Guam as well. Understanding the magnitude of resources that Dole has to offer we firmly believe that there are a number of synergies that will present itself once this joint venture launches. First Dole believes that growing produce closest to the market it will serve is the most effective model for supplier and market consumption. Second Dole prides itself in quality produce "" we know this joint venture will produce high quality produce for our small community. Third Dole is scientifically based when determining agribusiness opportunities. They will bring to Guam a number of scientists with a wealth of knowledge and experience in agribusiness. Fourth as a result of this access we fully expect to share and exchange this knowledge and resource with local farmers as well as the [University of Guam’s] College of Agriculture."

Arriola has high hopes that the agro-industrial facility will be well received by tourists especially those from Japan. "In all surveys conducted by the Guam Visitors Bureau tourists from Japan want to see more eco-tourism-related activities and Guam cultural experiences. We are currently working on developing an onsite eco-tourism attraction. This will include touring the farm picking produce and having a meal prepared on site for the visitor. As Dole is a very well-known brand in Japan we believe this will work to everyone’s benefit."

Aside from Dole bananas PRBI also imports Philippine mangoes pineapples packaged salads and coconuts into Guam. From April the company will also be importing dried mangoes made by Dole and calamansi juice. MBJ