Chiquita Brands International Inc. today will transfer one of its cash-strapped divisions to a worker-owned cooperative in northern Panama -- one of the largest such hand-overs in the banana-growing industry’s history.
In April, the Puerto Armuelles Fruit Co.'s union agreed to buy the division and the 7,415 acres of plantations it controls in Chiriqui province, which borders Costa Rica, for $20 million.
The Cincinnati-based fruit giant will buy bananas from its former division for at least 10 years.
Chiquita pioneered the banana trade in Panama a century ago and still accounts for 89% of the country’s banana exports. Panama exported $109.4 million worth of bananas last year.