General — 19 October 2012 — by Aaron Humes

Citrus producers Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL) held their annual general meeting at their compound on the Stann Creek Valley Road this past Friday afternoon, October 12.

A copy of the company’s annual report shown to Amandala reveals that the company made a profit of 4.7 million Belize dollars in the 2011 financial year, which runs from October of 2010 to September of 2011.

This comes after reported losses of 10 and 11 million dollars the previous two years, which it blames on the global recession and other attendant factors. Growth in the juice production component of the company has offset continued losses in the value-added sector.

The company reports that it has invested more than 3 million dollars in its various assets: the factories Belize Food Products Limited (BFPL) and Citrus Company of Belize Limited (CCBL); value-added operations such as Belize Citrus Feed which produces the Citropulpa organic feed and Valley Manufacturing, the main producers of local natural juices under the Caribbean Pride brand; and the orange and grapefruit groves the company owns primarily in the Stann Creek District.

In 2011, some 5.25 million boxes of orange and grapefruit were produced and the company projects $10 million in operating profit from 6.7 million boxes of produced fruit in 2012, a result of rebounding fruit volume after the devastation caused by Hurricane Richard in 2010 to the Valley.

The meeting reappointed as directors the representatives of majority shareholder (51%) Investment Company Limited, ICL (wholly-owned subsidiary of the Citrus Growers Association (CGA)) which include interim chairman Julian Murillo, CGA CEO Henry Anderson, Denzil Jenkins and Antonio and Rosella Zabaneh.

Representing minority shareholders, Banks Holdings Limited of Barbados (46%) at the meeting was director Richard Cozier; the other directors on the board are Sir Allan Fields, Dan Stoute and the newly appointed Dr. Henry Canton.

We understand that at the meeting, there was discontent among shareholders because they felt they have not been receiving sufficient information to give the company’s directors appropriate directions to run the company.

The meeting lasted for more than six hours, and during that time Canton, whose status at the company is nebulous because he was fired as CEO at a CPBL board meeting in December of 2010, only to have that decision reversed in the Supreme Court, was put under the spotlight several times as attendees closely questioned him about various ventures and activities he has engaged in on behalf of the company with the apparent support of Banks Holdings.

For instance, Canton admitted to having majority shares in Hummingbird Citrus Limited, a property of CPBL, and said he was working to bring the company to profitability.

Both ICL representatives and representative of the Orange Growers Trust, Anthony Chanona, said they do not recognize him either as CEO or as a director of CPBL.

According to our sources, attendees demanded via a motion of the directors that First Caribbean International Bank release a CPBL Independent Business Report commissioned from the Price Waterhouse Coopers firm after they were not satisfied as to why it was delayed.

Another motion asked for an amendment to the company’s articles of association to allow trustees of the Orange Growers Trust to attend and participate in future meetings but not vote on substantive issues, following a delay in this year’s meeting and several points of order on the conduct of this meeting.

Cozier claimed that the matter needed legal review and in order to not further perpetuate a breach of the articles, it was decided to limit the speaking time for participants at the meeting.

The CGA is expected to hold its Annual General Meeting in a few weeks’ time.

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