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Dole to Trim Its Flower Unit

October 13, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Dole Food Co. said Thursday that it would close flower farms in Colombia and Ecuador and shrink operations elsewhere, resulting in almost 3,500 lost jobs.

The sales force at the company's flower unit will be reduced by 35%, and 29% of administrative and management positions will be eliminated, Westlake Village-based Dole said.

Dole said a rising flower supply and competition from growers in Africa and Asia had driven down prices. Dole, which was taken private by Chief Executive David Murdock in 2003, is the biggest producer of fresh flowers in Latin America.

The farms being closed grow seasonal flowers that were too expensive to produce, the company said.

Dole said it would record restructuring charges of $26 million, $13 million of which would be cash, in the third and fourth quarters. The moves should improve cash flow by about $35 million, the company said.

This month, Dole-brand spinach was part of a recall after an E. coli outbreak that left three people dead and 189 sickened.

The tainted spinach all came from Natural Selection Foods, a San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based vegetable grower and processor, the Food and Drug Administration said.

At least seven bags of Dole-brand spinach tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli.

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