Oxnard-based food processing company Coastal Green Vegetable Co. is closing after 27 years in business.
Coastal Green contracts with growers of cauliflower, peppers, kale, spinach, broccoli and other produce, freezes the food and sends it to repackagers.
Increasing costs have slimmed margins, President and General Manager James Pickworth said. About 34 full-time employees and 100 seasonal workers will be out of a job in March.
“The pricing has gone up from growers and we haven’t been able to sustain on the sales side,” Pickworth told the Business Times.
Increasing water costs, regulations, wages, health care, changing food preferences and the strength of the dollar have cut into Coastal Green’s profit margin. A strong dollar is a double-edged sword for businesses, driving the cost of imports down but making exports more expensive.
Pickworth aims to sell the business, which would make sense for a vertically integrated company looking to scale up, he said.
“Oxnard and Ventura County are awesome places for this type of business,” Pickworth said. “It’s unfortunate the economics make it difficult to sustain.”
The high cost of land and labor has driven out many Ventura County processing operations, said Bruce Stenslie, president and CEO of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County. On top of that, zoning ordinances limit certain types of food processing like onsite cooking.
Increasing food-processing capabilities would create thousands of jobs and double the value of the region’s agricultural land, Stenslie said, creating a $365 million economic impact.
“We are three to six times underinvested in food processing compared to our California peers,” Stenslie said at the 2016 Ventura County Economic Outlook on Feb. 5 coordinated by the California Economic Forecast. “We currently have some 1,500 jobs in food processing and could grow this by 2,600 to 5,400.”
Coastal Green has a 36,000-square-foot processing facility on about 3.7 acres at 650 Buena Vista Ave. in Oxnard. Woolf Farming & Processing acquired the company in 2009, expanding its frozen vegetable processing businesses.
“This has an impact on many people in the area — everything involved in packaging, trucking, water and sewer charges, the temporary labor contractors,” Pickworth said. “The loss of sales is an ongoing concern.”
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