Chiquita signs long-term lease with Port of Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Chiquita bananas will continue to pass through the Port of Gulfport for the next decade. Friday morning, Chiquita and the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport agreed to a new lease to extend the partnership through 2019.

Governor Haley Barbour, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and senior executives from Chiquita were all on hand for the signing ceremony.

"Since the early days after Hurricane Katrina our outstanding partners at Chiquita said they would continue to be an important part of economic development in Mississippi. Today that promise has become a reality," Governor Haley Barbour said. "It's fitting that Chiquita will become the first corporate tenant under the Port of Gulfport's new master plan, which is a visionary plan that will help the Port achieve its full potential."

Senator Wicker said, "This agreement represents a strong, long-term partnership between Mississippi and Chiquita that will provide good jobs and a tremendous economic boost for the entire state as we continue to recover from Hurricane Katrina. It also helps solidify the Port of Gulfport's position in an impressive product supply chain that delivers fresh, healthy fruit to consumers in North America."

"For four decades, Chiquita has played a dynamic role in the success and growth of the Port of Gulfport," said Jim Simpson, president of the Port's Board of Commissioners.

"We're excited about the expansion plan developed by the Port," said Waheed Zaman, senior vice president of global product supply at Chiquita. "The state-of-the-art facility at Gulfport will handle more than 750 in-and-out containers for Chiquita per week. Our business relationship with the Port will help Chiquita achieve our growth plans for the future," said Mr. Zaman.

Port leaders say Chiquita currently uses nearly 25 acres at the Port of Gulfport and is responsible for 52 ship calls per year at the port.

"The long-term lease at Gulfport demonstrates that Chiquita takes seriously the promise we made after Katrina," said Mr. Zaman. "Three years ago we pledged to make a positive impact on economic growth in the region, and the new lease agreement will help make that happen for years to come."