EMBATTLED tomato-growing operation SP Exports is now focusing on marketing fruit rather than growing it, after creditors recently voted to get the company back on its feet.
The company went into voluntary administration on February 17 and, after several weeks in the hands of administrators KordaMentha, creditors voted to have the reins handed back to managing director Andrew Philip on March 23.
Mr Philip said he had decided to lease the land and crops to a company named Agquip, who would take over the farming side of the operation.
"SP is out of administration and we're continuing to trade on as a marketing entity," Mr Philip said.
"Basically, the crops in the ground have been taken over by a new entity and SP is pushing on with marketing."
He said the company also still held the marketing rights for the no-mess "Intense" tomato nationwide.
Mr Philip said SP had downsized and would now only employ a handful of staff.
"At this stage it's looking like we will have four staff to begin with," he said.
"The farming entity is where the big numbers will be employed."
Mr Philip said the decision to steer away from farming was part of the deed of company arrangement agreed on by the creditors.
"We obviously couldn't fund it through that period of administration, so they looked for alternative arrangements," he said.
Mr Philip said the company's main goal was to start returning money to
creditors. "The main thing now is to take the company through the deed of company arrangement and work on getting money back to the creditors," he said.
But Mr Philip did not rule out a return to farming in future.
SP Exports had put up eight properties for sale and Isis Central Sugar Mill general manager John Gorringe confirmed the mill was in the process of buying seven of those, which included about 1620ha of cane farming land.
SP Exports to focus on marketing
Agquip to take over growing
Isis Central Sugar Mill to buy seven of eight properties