Camellia, a UK conglomerate encompassing agriculture, engineering, the foodservice industry and investment, has taken an 80% controlling stake in local fruit supplier Bardsley England.

Bardsley, based in Kent in south-east Englnd, is said to be the UK’s second largest apple supplier. It also grows and distributes pears, grapes, plums and apricots to customers including large supermarkets in its domestic market. It additionally produces fruit juices.

Camellia, also based in Kent, told the London Stock Exchange (LSE), on which it is listed, that it had paid GBP15.7m (US$21.8m) for the stake and that it will also make a loan to Bardsley of GBP9.3m.

Bardsley is a family business but since 2016 Belgian fruit and vegetable supplier Greenyard has held a stake in the firm. It upped the size of that stake in 2019.

Bardsley told Just Food that as part of the newly-announced deal, Greenyard has sold all of its shares in the Bardsley Fruit Enterprises joint venture. But it said Greenyard will continue to process Top Fruit via the site under a long-term commercial agreement.

Its operation covers 850 hectares (2,100 acres) in Kent and includes 27 orchards as well as a large grading, packing and storage facility. It grows nearly 18,000 tonnes of fruit a year and at peak season it employs 550 staff.

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By GlobalData

Camellia, which has an agricultural division specialising in bearer plants (plants that produce regular crops, such as fruit trees) and tea production, said the investment would ensure Bardsley is able to invest further in developing its packing operations and extending its orchards. The loan will largely be used to repay Bardsley’s existing borrowings.

For the year ended 31 March 2021 Bardsley had revenue of GBP22.4m and recorded a loss before tax of GBP1.7m.

In a statement to the LSE, Camellia said: “As part of Camellia, Bardsley will have access to a wider customer base and lower cost of finance.”

It added that Bardsley’s packhouse operations offer synergies with Camellia’s avocado, macadamia and blueberry businesses and that they work with many of the same customers.

Tom Franks, CEO at Camellia, said: “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. Bardsley helps with both. It is located close to our HQ in Kent, which is the premier region for apple growing in the country.”

In a statement, Bardsley said: “Bardsley England has raised GBP18.9m of growth capital to maintain our investment in both the packhouse and farming operation to ensure the business rests in the top tier of the fresh produce industry and continues to spearhead development and technology for future growth.

“The Bardsley family has also used this as an opportunity to simplify the ownership structure by reducing their stake in the business. Ben Bardsley remains as a major shareholder and CEO of Bardsley England for the foreseeable future.

“We are energised for what’s ahead and are delighted to have formed a strategic partnership with Camellia Plc, a company who have an aligned appreciation for global food production and supply.”