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 MOSCOW, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- In the grip of winter, Muscovites are feeling a touch warmer this holiday season thanks to the largest privately funded humanitarian effort involving fresh fruit ever made here. Ten million free fresh bananas are being supplied by the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. (NYSE: CQB), the world's largest banana producer and marketer.
 During January, nearly 3.5 million pounds (1.6 million kilos) of bananas are being distributed to children, hospital patients and the poor throughout the Moscow region. Moscow's city and regional governments, along with the Salvation Army, Atlanta AG and Chiquita, are orchestrating the operation that requires military precision to ensure the fresh, perishable product reaches Muscovites without waste, spoilage or pilferage.
 The donation was originally the idea of Chiquita Chairman Carl H. Lindner. It was funded primarily by American Financial Corp., a Lindner family holding company which owns 46 percent of Chiquita. The project is utilizing ships, trains and trucks for carrying the freshly cut fruit from Central America to Moscow via Bremerhaven, Germany. The product and ocean transportation are being supplied by Chiquita and other logistics are being supplied by Atlanta AG, the leading German fresh food distributor. The local distribution arrangements are being coordinated by C.C.A. Fruit Service Company Ltd., a joint venture of Chiquita and Atlanta already doing business in Moscow.
 "As old barriers fall and the world's communities move closer together, the social responsibilities of international companies expand," said Steven G. Warshaw, executive vice president of Chiquita, at a Moscow news conference held today at the International Press Center and Club-Moscow. "That is why company chairman Carl Lindner thought Muscovites would enjoy a special holiday gift of nature's perfect food and began implementing this massive effort."
 Put end to end, the 10 million bananas would cover 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) or the distance from Berlin to Moscow. Transportation and storage of the tropical fruit require 110 forty-foot (nine-meter) containers. A fleet of three ships, 105 train cars and several trailer trucks are involved in the operation. The value of the gift it approximately $4 million (U.S.), including the fruit, transportation and distribution costs.
 "Bananas have a unique ability to put smiles on faces at the mere mention of the fruit," added Chiquita's Warshaw. "In fact, we hope this gift of tropical sunshine in the snow will bring at least 10 million smiles to the Moscow region."
 In mid-December, the bananas were cut in Central America just prior to each ship's arrival, checked for quality on three different occasions, and on the same day, loaded onto Chiquita's own Great White Fleet, composed of the most sophisticated, high-speed refrigerated ships in the world. Their computer controlled atmosphere system protects the delicate fruit from the elements during its 12-day voyage to Bremerhaven from Central America. In Germany, the 100,000 boxes of fruit are again checked for quality, and the bananas are loaded onto awaiting trains and trucks for the five-to-seven day journey.
 The Russian Agency for Cooperation and Development ensured that Muscovites would enjoy the freshest bananas by engineering the considerable challenge of speeding the bananas around and through customs queues at the Brest border. "I thank Chiquita brands from the bottom of my heart for contributing to those who really need the fruit," said Nikolaj Anisimov, head of the Department for Humanitarian Assistance for the agency. "Reports that I'm receiving every day from different distribution points clearly show that the bananas are of the highest possible quality."
 "It is symbolic that this aid comes in the same days as President Bill Clinton's visit to Russia, and it presents a perfect example of American goodwill toward the Russian people," continued Anisimov, whose agency is responsible for providing assistance to foreign countries or companies which provide technical or humanitarian assistance in Russia.
 The United States Department of State and the United States Embassy in Moscow were instrumental in clearing the bureaucratic channels in both the States and abroad to expedite the development of the gift.
 Chiquita invited the Moscow City government to handle nearly 70 percent of the distribution with the Moscow regional government and the Salvation Army distributing the balance. "Winter is a very difficult time for the people we assist in Moscow," said Salvation Army Commissioner Reinder J. Schurink. "Without question, this wonderful gift will make it a little easier for those we serve."
 Determined that none of the fruit would be diverted or wasted because of improper storage or shipping delays, Chiquita formulated a distribution plan with local and regional government officials to deliver the bananas to several million people. More than 1,860 municipal kindergartens, 150 hospitals, 100 children's camps, 32 boarding schools, 30 nursing homes for the elderly and handicapped and 28 orphanages will receive the majority of the bananas in 2,200 separate deliveries made by the Moscow City government alone.
 Eight trains are delivering bananas to cities in the Moscow region. The regional government is distributing bananas to kindergartens, pre-schools, secondary schools, day care centers, orphanages, children's rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, first-aid clinics and pensioners. The Salvation Army will distribute a full truckload of fruit to their homeless children's center; 19 food kitchens; homeless, pensioners and disabled people through their "hand to hand" food distribution program; and the homeless through their Soup Run program.
 Only recently have average Russians been able to enjoy one of their favorite foods, for along with economic reforms have come new shipments of bananas. In 1991, Chiquita responded to increased demand and activity in Central and Eastern European countries by establishing joint ventures for the marketing and distribution of fresh food products in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Russia.
 Chiquita Brands International is the world's premier marketer, distributor and producer of fresh fruit and vegetables and a leading marketer and producer of value-added processed foods.
 American Financial Corp. is a Cincinnati-based diversified holding company owned by the family of its chairman, Carl H. Lindner. Its principal activities are in the insurance and financial services industries, broadcasting and the distribution of food products.
 -0- 1/13/94
 /CONTACT: Sandra W. Heimann of Chiquita, 513-784-8011; or Tom Thomson of PBN (Moscow), 095-941-8489, for Chiquita/

CO: Chiquita Brands International Inc.; American Financial Corp. ST: Ohio IN: FOD SU:

TM-LW -- SF003 -- 1662 01/13/94 08:03 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 13, 1994

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