AN ALRESFORD salad factory is set to close for good after losing business with a key customer.

Bakkavor, which employs 100 people at Alresford Salads, near Old Alresford Pond, says it has been unable to make up for its losses.

The firm had faced criticism from conservationists over practices at the factory but it denies that has any connection with the closure decision.

Mike Edwards, UK chief operating officer at Bakkavor, said: “This is a sad day and it has been a very painful decision to make. We have worked hard over the last 20 years to become an integral part of the local community, both as a major employer and a supporter of many local community projects.

"As with businesses all over the UK, we are having to adjust our operations to a very different economic landscape, and this unfortunately involves the proposed closure of Alresford Salads.

“We will be working closely with employee representatives throughout the consultation process and fully appreciate that this is a difficult time for everyone concerned.

"This proposal is in no way a reflection of the commitment and dedication of all our colleagues at Alresford, who we thank for their hard work and loyalty over the years."

Recently Bakkavor had been at the centre of a row with the Salmon and Trout Conservation because it releases water back into the River Alre after using it to wash crops.

Conservationists say the discharge includes pesticides used in cultivation and these chemicals are harming invertebrates downstream on the Alre and the upper reaches of the River Itchen.

S&TC was calling on the company to stop the practice.

Bakkavor, which acquired Alresford Salads in 2000, says "the decision to close the Alresford site has no connection to Bakkavor’s ongoing work with the Environment Agency, which has received heightened attention. The Group strives to meet its environmental commitments and has improved many processes over the years.

"This is a difficult time for the employees at the site and Bakkavor will be focusing solely on them during this process."

This announcement follows on from news in June of the proposed closure of one of the Group’s salads factories in Spalding. Bakkavor continues to review its operational strategy in this category to improve efficiencies, protect margins and remain a key player in salads.

The company was the main sponsor of Tichborne Park Cricket Club, worked with nearby schools to raise awareness of healthy eating and watercress.

It also supported events such as the Watercress Festival, the Alresford Music Festival, the Agricultural Show and the Alresford 10K.