By the same time, the company said in a news release this morning, the Moody Dunbar corporate offices, involving about 25 staff members, will be moved from Limestone to Johnson City.
Manufacturing, warehousing and transportation operations in Limestone will be consolidated into other company-owned plants in Dunn, N.C., and Saticoy, Calif., the statement said.
Approximately 20 full-time Moody Dunbar employees will be affected by the consolidation and will have the option of seeking jobs at the Dunn, N.C., plant or choosing to accept a severance package, according to the news release.
The release added that "Some of these employees will be employed through April 2000."
A company spokesman explained today that the consolidation will take place gradually between now and spring 2000.
He noted that the 1998 manufacturing season was complete, and said the manufacturing plant will not open in 1999. The season usually begins in August.
In addition to the impact on full-time staff, the closing of the East Tennessee manufacturing, warehousing and transportation operations will affect more than 200 seasonal employees, primarily migrant workers from Latin American homelands.
"This move is necessary to continue the growth of our company," said Moody Dunbar, Inc., President Stanley Dunbar, son of the founder of the company.
"We have reviewed our operations and are now implementing a plan that will ensure the company's long-term success."
He stated, "This move strengthens our ability to compete and grow in an ever-changing environment."
Dunbar explained in the release that "The quality and quantity of bell peppers and pimientos grown for production at the Limestone plant have declined significantly over the past few years.
"Our Limestone employees have worked to overcome this trend - but we cannot remedy these problems by working harder or expending more resources.
"It is prohibitive," he said, "for us to continue operating at such high costs at this plant."
Dunbar also stated, "We have highly skilled and dedicated employees at Limestone who have produced excellent quality products.
"However, to continue manufacturing at extreme costs serves neither our customers, employees at our other plants, or our company.
"We have opted to inform our employees of the decision at this time to give them as much time as possible to make plans for their future.
"We appreciate our employees for their many contributions and intend to assist them during the transition."
Moody Dunbar' Inc.'s East Tennessee plant is located not far from the Greene County line in Washington County, between Greeneville and Erwin on Tennessee Route 107.
The company has used a Limestone mailing address for many years.
Today's far-reaching manufacturing business grew from a small pepper-growing operation started by the late Moody Dunbar in the 1930s on a half-acre of land.
He began raising the peppers in order to sell the seeds to a Michigan company, an Associated Press article explained in 1996.
The AP article noted that, when the Michigan company asked for more seeds, Dunbar "went to tobacco farmers in Greene County and convinced some to grow peppers."
Realizing that the flesh of the pepper was going to waste, he found a meat packer who wanted the peppers for luncheon meats. In 1947, the company began its canning operations.
Today's news release stated that Moody Dunbar, Inc., is now the nation's largest producer of bell pepper products and the third largest sweet potato canner. The products are sold worldwide under a variety of labels.