Kent packing facility closes due to 'cost overruns and machinery problems'

Fruit First, a state-of-the-art packing facility in Faversham, Kent, has closed less than a year after it first opened - marking the loss of at least 100 jobs.

Marketing and distribution company Worldwide Fruit, which was a shareholder in the business, announced the closure of the facility as Grower went to press last Friday (14 March).

Worldwide Fruit was one of a handful of shareholders that helped invest some £7m in the facility.

Chief executive Robert Balicki told Grower the closure was due to "cost overruns" and "all sorts of problems with the machinery".

Worldwide Fruit added in a statement: "Fruit First regrets that it is ceasing to trade. As the largest creditor, Worldwide Fruit had worked closely with the other shareholders in the business and potential outside investors to try to find a way forward. Sadly we found the expectations of the other parties to be far in advance of what we believed to be realistic. Our proposals that would have saved the business were rejected - leaving us with no option but to serve a winding up petition upon Fruit First.

"Worldwide Fruit will now commence implementing contingency packing plans that will ensure that we continue to deliver to our customers and suppliers."

Fruit First claimed to be an "independent venture bringing together fruit-packing expertise from Great Cheveney Farms, Gaskains Packing Services, Clockhouse Farms, Worldwide Fruit and Richard Hochfeld".

Its state-of-the-art technology included the latest grading and sorting technologies, as well as a top-of-the-range IT system.

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