UK – Global agriculture group Camellia has acquired Bardsley England, UK’s second largest apple grower, in an effort to diversify its product and geographic portfolio. 

Under the terms of the deal, Camellia has purchased an 80% stake in Bardsley England for £15.7m (US$21.83m) and will also loan £9.3m (US$12.93m) to Bardsley, largely to cover existing debts.   

Bardsley’s farming operation covers 850 hectares (ha) in Kent and includes 27 orchards growing apples, pears, cherries, plums, and grapes as well as a large grading, packing, and storage facility.  

The business grows nearly 18,000 tonnes (t) of fruit a year, supplying 90 million apples a year, including Royal Gala, Braeburn, Cox and Bramley varieties. 

In 2019, Bardsley started planting Chardonnay vines which are now used to make English sparkling wines.  It also produces a range of juices for the UK market. 

The company has however been experiencing financial challenges in the recent past, reporting an unaudited pre-tax loss of £1.7m (US$2.36m) in the year ending 31 March 2021.  

Camellia’s investment will therefore be key in strengthening its balance sheet and supporting sustainable growth. 

In a statement, the two companies hinted at this by revealing the new capital injection from Camellia could help the business in upgrading which process more than 35,000t of fruit a year, and extending its orchards. 

Camellia which has for a long term yearned to expand its presence in the UK market will also now have an opportunity of achieving this goal. 

“We have been looking for some time to increase our focus on agriculture where we have deep skills, and to increase our operations in the UK,” said Tom Franks, chief executive at Camellia.  

Bardsley helps with both. It is located close to our HQ in Kent, which is the premier region for apple growing in the country. We look forward to partnering with the Bardsley family in the future.” 

Camellia’s entry is happening at a time when healthy-minded Britons are creating the biggest demand for fruit and vegetables this century. 

According to a report from British retailer Tesco, since the first lockdown started last year, stay-at-home Brits with more time on their hands have been able to spend more time at home cooking leading to a record-breaking weekly demand for healthy vegetables, fruit, and salad. 

The retailer notes that Apples were among the fruits with the most demand with its sales of fruit rising 10% during the period under review. 

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