Operations at Liverpool Produce Terminal (LPT) are to be “provisionally suspended” with closure possible after it failed to attract business, Fresh Produce Journal has reported.
Owners Fresca Group announced "with great regret" that it is to "admit defeat" and provisionally suspend operations at the port on Wednesday. Over the next month a formal consultation with employees will commence after which a decision will be taken on the long-term future of the business. At present, 40 people are employed at LPT.
LPT was acquired by Fresca Group in 2010 as a strategic hub for the group in the north of the UK but “the facility has not attracted the volume of product it requires in order to be financially viable”.
Ahead of the start of the main Spanish citrus season, the decision has been taken to concentrate the MMG and Primafruit citrus packing operations at Evesham, and Paddock Wood while the consultation process is taking place. The packing and dispatch of product from LPT will be transferred from 15 October.
In a statement, Fresca said: "Inevitably, this news and embarking on the consultation process will result in disruption and uncertainty for staff, and we regret that this news could result in the closure of the business if no other financially viable solution is found during the consultation period."
Chris Mack, executive chairman of Fresca Group said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that we’ve had to admit defeat and provisionally suspend operations at LPT. The team, both at LPT and elsewhere within the Group, have put an enormous effort into making this route to market a success. However, we were looking for growth at a time of significant change in our industry. The fact is that to date, despite attracting great interest, few people within the industry have been prepared to support LPT by committing volumes to this new route to market. The business environment is tough at the moment and we must focus all our resources – financial and management - on maximising the efficiency of all our operations.
He added: “We have also seen some of the financial advantages offered by this route eroded with the announcement of significantly increased shipping cost from northern Spain this winter.
“I thank all the staff at LPT and within Fresca Group who have worked so hard to give LPT the best chance of success, and we look forward to hearing their views as part of the consultation process that we are embarking upon. If there is any way in which to make the LPT business work we will find it but if we cannot, then I wish to make clear that failure of the venture will be down to the current economic climate and not any failing of the team.”