Friday, September 21, 2007

Planting seedlings, Planting seeds, Resetting trees

Thanks to our 90 member crew, we've back on schedule for planting this year. Kudos to the crew for a job well done: cleaning-up fields, resetting trees and planting new seedlings after hurricane Dean.

Needless to say this feverish planting activity has depleted our nursery stock. Always thinking of our future in Belize, nursery workers have started sowing new seeds for future crops, see photo below.

How fast do papaya trees grow in Belize? Check the photo to the right. Papaya trees grow straight. Notice the slight bends in the trunks on these trees. When these trees were reset after the hurricane, they were reset at a slight angle. The part of the trunks above the bend shows the growth since the storm.

Cement Roofs on Our New Headquarters in Belize

A number of Homestead employees asked to see more about the poured concrete roofs on the buildings in Belize. Living in a hurricane-prone zone like southern Florida is making us wonder if concrete not shingles is the way to go. Here are more roof photos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Construction Photos from Belize

Construction is on schedule. Thanks to Santiago for sending the photos.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fruta Bomba Hands Out Termination Letters

Excerpts from the Belize Centaur Cable Network broadcast
Friday, September 14, 2007

Belize Fruit Packers Ltd. and Fruta Bomba Limited are sister companies operating under the umbrella of Brooks Tropical located in Homestead, Florida. Today, approximately 800 employees total from both companies were handed their letters of termination. It’s a drastic step, but one that became necessary when Hurricane Dean practically flattened the papaya industry. Our news team was in Corozal and filed the following report.

Jorge Aldana - Reporting
The Papaya industry in Belize has been a fast growing industry, generating about 30 million dollars in revenue annually. But Hurricane Dean was a force to reckon with, and the losses to that industry were great. Consequently, approximately 800 papaya workers were given their letters of termination from both Fruta Bomba and Belize Fruit Packers.

Most of the workers that were let go are from Fruta Bomba. The others are from Belize Fruit Packers. Santiago Victorin is the Manager at Belize Fruit Packers and told us why the terminations are necessary.

Santiago Victorin – Manager, Belize Fruit Packers
“Basically we’re paying off the people that we laid off today. This is the two weeks notice and next week some of them will be getting another pay check in regards to severance pay and holiday.”

Jorge Aldana
“Why have they been laid off?”

Santiago Victorin
“There is no fruit as a result of Hurricane Dean.”

Jorge Aldana
“How many workers are we speaking about that have been laid off by the Belize Fruit Packers?”

Santiago Victorin
“Presently we have about 150 right now.”

Jorge Aldana
“And all will be laid off?”

Santiago Victorin
“Yes some of them are still working with us right now. I have about 80 of them working right now.”

Jorge Aldana
“Are they expected to come back?”

Santiago Victorin
“Yes. We should be able to crank up by November or December and they will be rehired again. I hope we will crank up soon so that these people won’t be affected so much.”

Essential workers have been retained by both companies and those that were let go are expected to be rehired when the company is fully up and running.

The company hopes that by November or December, the papaya industry will be back on its feet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Publix Ad Features Brooks Tropicals' Logo

In newspapers across the south, the Publix pull-out ad features the Brooks Tropical's logo.

"Produce advertising rarely shows a grower's logo. It's considered 'branding.' Retailers show your logo in advertising when they believe their customers look for that company name while making a purchase decision," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals.

The pull-out ad can be found in major daily newspapers - such as the Miami Herald - across the south where Publix stores can be found.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Avocados Help Prevent Oral Cancer, New Study Shows

Excerpts from a 9/10/07 article in The Produce News by Rand Green

Nearly three years ago, a study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles found that "nutrients in avocados can work together to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells."

UCLA researchers "discovered that avocados are the richest source of lutein among commonly eaten fruits," according to a UCLA press release. Lutein is a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant and that has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer in previous studies, but the UCLA study suggested that the combination of lutein and other nutrients in avocados "might have additive or synergistic effects against prostate cancer compared with pure lutein alone."

Now a new group of studies conducted at Ohio State University has shown that extracts from avocados inhibit the growth of pre-cancerous cells that lead to oral cancer, preventing them from developing into actual cancers.

The studies "suggest that individual and combinations of phytochemicals from the avocado fruit may offer an advantageous dietary strategy in cancer prevention," according to Haiming Ding of OSU's College of Medicine, who collaborated in the study along with Steven M. D'Ambrosio and A. Doublas Kinghorn of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center and Young-Won Chin of the OSU College of Pharmacy.

Mr. D'Ambrosio said, "We think these phytochemicals either stop the growth of precancerous cells in the body or they kill the precancerous cells without affecting normal cells. Our study focuses on oral cancer, but the finding might have implications for other types of cancer."

"In most cases, dietary phytochemicals act as antioxidants to prevent the initial events in cancer," the report states. "Avocado...contains numerous antioxidant phytochemicals." Various effects of extracts of these phytochemicals, both individually and in combination, on in-vitro precancerous cells were observed. "Taken together, this data suggest that phytochemicals isolated form the avocado" induce apoptosis of the cells, a "tightly regulated form of cell death."

The article concludes that "in-vitro and in-vivo studies are indicating that avocados should be added to the list of fruits as a part of a cancer-prevention diet. Avocados are a rich source of nutrients as well as cancer-preventing phytochemicals. While some of the individual phytyochemicals found in avocados have been well characterized, many new uncharacterized phytochemicals are being discovered with potential cancer-preventing activity.

"Studies described here and elsewhere are indicating that a combination of phytochemicals as would be found in the whole fruit and extracts from the fruit may be more efficient."

Julie Upton, an independent registered dietitian in San Francisco who is a consultant to the California Avocado Commission said, "what is interesting is this isn't the first study like this to find a link between avocados and anti-cancer properties. It is a relatively new science and we haven't even identified all of the phytonutrients in the fruit."

"Some studies have found little or no anti-cancer benefits realized from some individual anti-oxidants," Ms. Upton noted. "But in combination, as they are found in their natural state in fruits and vegetables, them seem to act synergistically" to produce "a much bigger benefit. I think that is really the key for the anti-cancer properties."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Computer Donation to Police in Corozal, Belize

In support of our men and women in uniform, Fruta Bomba quickly responded to a request for computer equipment. Photographed is Israel Manzanilla of Fruta Bomba on the left and Inspector James Moreira Deputy officer-in-charge of the Corozal Police Station on the right.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Photos of Brooks' Headquarters Buildings Construction Site

Work on the headquarters buildings in Belize resumed within days of Hurricane Dean.

Installation of a custom-designed papaya packing machine in the packing house will still occur before Thanksgiving.

Hurricane Dean Crop Damage Mixed

excerpts from an article by Brian Gaylord 09/05/2007

The papaya crop in Belize suffered significant losses from Hurricane Dean. Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Homestead, FL-based Brooks Tropicals LLC, said that Brooks is still assessing damage to its papaya crop, but she noted that signs are more encouraging than the company initially thought. "Our initial assessment was six to eight months to get back to normal," Ms. Ostlund said. "We'll definitely be back in February 2008 -- six months." She said that the fruit would start coming back in December.

One-third of Brooks Tropicals' papaya acreage is young acreage that tends to survive storm conditions better than older trees, Ms. Ostlund said. Within a week of Hurricane Dean hitting Belize, Brooks Tropicals already was moving along with its recovery. It began re-planting stock from its nursery on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
The company has been doing research and development on prime plants in its nursery stock, so even though January and February may be down or lost months, the company anticipates its papaya production in 2008 to be its highest ever, Ms. Ostlund said.

When Hurricane Dean hit, Brooks Tropicals was in the process of building a new headquarters in Belize that is up to hurricane code. The company also is putting the final touches on a new custom-built packing machine that will be in place in Belize by Thanksgiving.