- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Chiquita has chosen a site near downtown New Orleans to ripen the bananas it ships in from Central America.

Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange told New Orleans CityBusiness (http://bit.ly/1rsCneF) the company will lease private property on Earhart Boulevard near the corner of South Claiborne Avenue where the New Orleans coroner’s complex is being built.

The selection of a local ripening site ends Chiquita’s months-long search that was believed to involve only port-owned property. According to port officials, the produce company required about 40,000 square feet of space.

Chiquita has continued handling the ripening process at the Port of Gulfport in Mississippi. Its shipping operations began this month at the Napoleon Avenue Terminal in New Orleans. LaGrange said Chiquita wanted to avoid the expense of staying in that situation.

“We had alternatives all along, but they (required) 12-14 months construction and rehabilitation and (Chiquita) just didn’t want to wait that long,” LaGrange said.

Although Chiquita will lease the Earhart site, the port and state will split the $2.6 million cost of installing a prefabricated ripening room, LaGrange said.

Louisiana Economic Development has provided $2.2 million while the port will pay $400,000 to cover the balance, he said.

LaGrange described the ripening room as a building inside a building that will handle the bananas Chiquita plans to move by truck from the port to the Earhart site and back again.

Chiquita officials could not be reached for comment.

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Information from: New Orleans CityBusiness, http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com

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