Hargreaves Plants purchases nursery site from RA Meredith in expansion drive

Grower takes over 18-acre Huntingdon nursery in a strategic move to try and corner a bigger share of the soft fruit market.

There is potential for growth in the berry sector, says Anthony Snell, NFU West Midlands Horticulture Board chair - image: SXC.HU
There is potential for growth in the berry sector, says Anthony Snell, NFU West Midlands Horticulture Board chair - image: SXC.HU

Berry and asparagus grower Hargreaves Plants has bought the Huntingdon nursery of RA Meredith following Meredith's decision to rationalise its operations.

Managing director Rupert Hargreaves said: "This is a great strategic move for our soft-fruit plant business, where we are expanding our market share significantly."

"The 18-acre Huntingdon nursery will allow us to take the full advantage of our products and the market," he added. Meredith's 10 staff have all been taken on by the grower.

RA Meredith is one of the largest producers of ornamental plants in the UK and a supplier to the Royal Parks.

The business was a high-profile victim of the collapse of DIY chain Focus earlier this year, leaving it nearly £1.5m out of pocket. Director Chris Meredith declined to comment on the site sale.

The switch mirrors the new direction at the former premises of cut chrysanthemum giant Donaldsons, which were bought for strawberry production.

Consultant John Adlam, who helped design the Meredith site in the 1980s, said: "There's a tinge of sadness that the loss of a company such as Focus forces the industry to take these measures to maintain stability.

"I don't think ornamentals per se is struggling but sectors that depend on costly inputs are going through difficult times. Growers, quite rightly, are saying should we be growing this crop? Hargreaves benefits because it produces young plants and I expect it is seeing a demand in sales."

Hargreaves also bought 440ha Church Farm in Hillington recently and will grow waiting-bed strawberries on around 8ha of land previously used for barley.

Business sector manager Giz Gaskin said: "It was partly prompted by quality problems with imports, which we've noticed over the past two years. We buy from most propagators in Europe and are starting to look at our own production. We will push to produce them at the same time as the Dutch or earlier."

Soft fruit view

Anthony Snell, berry grower and chair, NFU West Midlands horticulture board

"There's still potential for growth within the berry sector. Hargreaves is reasonably large and consolidating against a perceived increase in sales and margins. Berries offer well-organised marketing with few marketing desks."


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