Ocean Spray Cranberries seeks federal restrictions on fruit growers

February 25, 2000|By BOSTON GLOBE

As its industry reels from oversupply, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. says it will urge the federal government to restrict how much fruit growers can bring to market in the fall.

The announcement caused one Ocean Spray rival to cry foul.

According to Chief Executive Officer John Decas of Decas Sales Co. in Wareham, Mass., Ocean Spray has largely caused the cranberry surplus by encouraging its growers in Wisconsin and Canada to devote more acreage to cranberry production. In essence, federal limits would force the industry to bear the costs of Ocean Spray's mistakes, he said.

"That's nonsense," said Ocean Spray spokesman Chris Phillips. The surplus is an industry-wide problem, and Decas has to "accept some responsibility, too," Phillips said from the company's Lakeville, Mass., headquarters.

Ocean Spray remains the industry's biggest player.

Oversupply has sent cranberry prices plummeting. A few years ago, a grower could receive $80 for a barrel of cranberries. This year, the price could fall to $25 or less. It's believed that most growers need to make about $40 a barrel to break even.

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