Shares in Dole Food Co Inc, the world's largest producer and seller of fresh fruits and vegetables, edged down in their debut on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange after its initial public offering priced below expectations.

Dole's shares started trading at $12.45, or 0.4 percent below the IPO price of $12.50 per share, and continued to fall slightly. In early trading the shares were trading at $12.25, or down 2 percent.

Dole sold 35.7 million shares in its IPO, raising $446.4 million. Dole had expected the shares to price between $13 and $15 each.

For the first half of 2009, Dole's sales fell 11.1 percent to $3.3 billion and profits slid 18.3 percent. It had 2008 revenue of $7.6 billion and net income of $123 million.

Investor David Murdock bought a controlling interest in Dole's predecessor company, Castle & Cooke Inc, in 1985, and became chairman and chief executive. The company changed its name to Dole in 1991, according to the securities filing.

Murdock, who took Dole private in 2003 in a $2.5 billion deal, still owns 59 percent of Dole's shares after the IPO, according to the filing.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba)