Vapogro plan blamed for Avoncrop demise

Administrator Leonard Curtis has blamed the demise of horticulture supplier Avoncrop on "a failed diversification into a related venture" based around the Vapogro brand of growing media.

Avoncrop, having bought Vapogro from Finnish producer Kekkila, converted a former Fisons factory in Meare to process Vapogro products for £1.8m in 2003. Insiders suggest it has been battling to make a return on the investment ever since in a "tight" market.

HTA president Andrew Richardson said the difficulties may have arisen because growers increasingly want to deal with manufacturers rather than suppliers. Bulrush and Plantpak now supply direct.

He said: "Everyone wants to deal direct with the manufacturer if they can, to try to cut costs out of the business. We haven't dealt with Avoncrop for a couple of years. The supply chain is different to what it was two years ago. There has been consolidation - fewer growers in the industry. And there's a lot more stock from the Continent."

ADAS growing media consultant Susie Holmes said: "The growing media climate has been very tough over the past few years. This is not the first and will not be the last to go. It is very difficult to get prices up - production costs are rising, suppliers are having to invest in peat alternatives and imports are rising. But the industry is not prepared to pay higher prices."

Companies such as BHGS, Munro, East Riding, Fargro, LS Systems and Altys will hope to pick up Avoncrop's pots, compost and sundries supply business.

Leonard Curtis is seeking a buyer for the business, which has a turnover of £10m and employs 53 staff at three sites in Bracknell in Berkshire, Boston in Lincolnshire and Sandford in north Somerset.

Leonard Curtis director Paul Reeves is keeping the business trading while seeking a buyer. He said: "Avoncrop has an experienced management team and a range of strong brand names that are highly regarded by a loyal customer base.

"Potential buyers could be businesses in the same sector looking to expand, firms wishing to diversify into the sector, new entrants seeking a ready-made business or a management buy-in team."

Leonard Curtis would not comment further.

Another source said: "Growers have fixed prices with sheds so can't pay more for supplies and that means margins are being eroded. Avoncrop made a hell of an investment with Vapogro and the sales volume could not happen fast enough."

 

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