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N.J. fruit importer relocating to Port of Wilmington

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Workers sort oranges at Dayka & Hackett’s New Jersey operation in September. The company is now moving to the Port of Wilmington. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAYKA & HACKETT

WILMINGTON – Dayka & Hackett, an importer, packager, and distributor of fresh fruit from South America, is relocating its operations to the Port of Wilmington after being lured by port operator Gulftainer.

Currently located at Gloucester Marine Terminal in Camden, N.J., the 15-year-old company has long relationships with South American growers and a collection of table grape and citrus tree farms of its own in California.

Kyle Hackett, the company’s controller and son of its co-founder, said Gulftainer leaders were able to put together a service package that convinced them to move their headquarters, sales office and subsidiary Fresh Pack packaging operations to Delaware. The company plans to move about $2 million in equipment to Wilmington and invest another $1 million to $1.5 million retrofitting a facility at the port and buying new equipment.

On Jan. 25, the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), unanimously approved a $370,700 incentive package to support the effort, including a $291,500 job performance grant for the creation of 18 new positions and a capital expenditure grant of $79,200.

The packaging operation primarily sorts and bags mandarins, oranges, and grapefruit in the mesh bags that consumers are used to finding in the grocery store, Hackett explained. The company imports its fruit into both the Port of Wilmington and the larger Packer Avenue Terminal in Philadelphia.

State Sen. Nicole Poore, who serves on the CDF, asked Hackett what it would take to bring all of its import business to Wilmington.

Hackett explained that the Port of Wilmington’s smaller size only allowed it to call so many container ships at a time, so many ocean shipping lines choose to forgo the Delaware port closer to the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean and travel farther upriver to the larger Philadelphia port. The decision-making process includes both growers, who have perishable products to get out of the country, and the shipping lines that seek a port to call, he noted.

Dayka & Hackett primarily deals in citrus fruit and grapes, but is adding avocadoes and blueberries. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAYKA & HACKETT

As Gulftainer has plans to invest in excess of $200 million in upgrades at Wilmington to expand container storage by 70% and speed up unloading times, Hackett said that his company believes more lines will ultimately choose to move more ships to Delaware.

“That’s what we’re counting on. That’s why we’re moving, because we’re taking kind of a long-term bet,” he told Poore. “We think that they’re going to be able to accomplish that. We really like Gulftainer’s track record globally and we’re hopeful they can do the same thing here in Wilmington.”

In Delaware, Dayka & Hackett also believe there may be additional citrus and grape importers that it can bring in as repackaging customers. Several large retailers, including Walmart, are increasing their direct buys in Central and South America and importing themselves, Hackett added.

“These retailers are very much about the bottom line, so if we could save them all logistics charges by being able to bring the fruit straight to Wilmington, I think that would add more customers,” he said.

While Dayka & Hackett’s primary commodities are citrus fruits and grapes, it is also beginning to add avocados and blueberries to its product offerings as well.

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    A.Rrajani Photographer February 2, 2021



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