Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Six months into receivership, potential investors have been given two weeks to submit expressions of interest in Jamaica Hydroponics Limited (JHL), whether as a going concern or just its assets.
Anura Jayatillake and Audley Gordon, both of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Jamaica management consultants, were appointed co-receiver/managers in February by Development Bank of Jamaica, which took over the vegetable grower to recover outstanding debt.
DBJ has backed the company since 2002.
"As indicated in the ad, we want to sell it for what it was intended to do. It is from that perspective we are hoping to sell it as a going concern," said Gordon.
"But someone else might have something better to do with the land, or someone might need the greenhouses and already have land. The offers will be evaluated and the best economic deal will be accepted," he said.
On Sunday, the receiver advertised for sale land and equipment, including chiller trucks, a 40-acre farm in Newberry, Manchester, assorted greenhouses, pump houses, farm house and, separately, 66,747 square feet of land in Jacks Hill in Kingston.
The receiver said DBJ was the principal creditor, but he declined comment on the loan involved, saying it would prejudice the sale effort under way. The Deloitte duo were appointed February 8 when DBJ exercised a three-year-old debenture held over the company's assets.
DBJ, on its website, touts Jamaica Hydroponics as the first company "to successfully commercialise hydroponics farming in Jamaica".
The company, founded in 2000 by Richard Khouri, supplied vegetables grown in a controlled environment mainly to tourism businesses.
Gordon said the Jamaica Hydroponics operation has been idle for one year.
"I can't speculate on why they went out of business. They were predominantly in romaine lettuce, with sales to the tourism sector, supermarkets and others," Gordon said. "Before operations ceased, they went into tomatoes. They did have a market for their produce."
Attempts to reach Khouri were unsuccessful. And DBJ's Managing Director Milverton Reynolds referred queries back to the receiver.
Challenges faced by the business over time included the effects of hurricanes and water quality, according to DBJ.
JHL produced 11,000 pounds of romaine lettuce every week from the 1.75 acres in production and had wanted to expand, but faced challenges following damage by Hurricane Ivan of 2004, according to court documents surrounding a legal fight with landlord Alpart that indirectly evolved from the storm, which Jamaica Hydroponics won.
The case and appeals were concluded in 2010. Other reports show that the company had plans to move into tomato and cantaloupe.
Deloitte has set a deadline of August 30 for investors to express interest in JHL.