More than 400 people are facing Christmas without a job after being told a Kent firm is shutting down with immediate effect.
Fresh produce company A Gomez Ltd, based in Coldharbour Lane in Bridge, just outside Canterbury, has confirmed to staff it has ceased trading and is bringing in administrators.
Employees at the business – which specialises in fruit packing, cold storage and distribution – have been left “shell-shocked” at the “atrocious timing” after being told yesterday afternoon not to come in to work on Saturday.
A letter signed off by director Raquel Hernandez, seen by KentOnline, says: “It is with regret that I have to inform you that, with effect from Friday, December 8, A Gomez Limited will cease trading.
“As most of you are aware, the business has been encountering many financial challenges following the loss of its business since undertaking a gradual wind-down of its operations over recent weeks.
“Unfortunately the financial pressures on the business have meant that the shareholders and directors of the company have had to take the reluctant decision to cease operations with immediate effect.”
Ms Hernandez says the company has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators – and they expect joint administrators to be appointed early next week.
The letter adds: “The business has ceased trading and you should not attend for work in future.
“We are arranging conference calls on Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon when further details will be provided regarding your employment position.”
The letter says employees will be paid for the hours they have worked in December.
There has been uncertainty over the future of Gomez for weeks now. KentOnline had made several attempts to speak to managers at the firm, but to no avail.
It is understood bosses at the firm had planned to wind down the business and cease trading between February and March next year – with the sudden closure taking many by surprise.
“The timing is atrocious. Everyone thought we would have at least this Christmas to prepare...”
One employee, who asked not to be named, called it “a bitter pill to swallow”.
The worker told KentOnline: “We’re all shell-shocked. When we first heard the business would wind down we couldn’t believe it
“Business has got quieter, but we all feel let down and failed by the senior management – there are people who have spent more than 10 years there and not so much as a thank you.
“The company has done the absolute bare minimum with very little regard to employees’ welfare and mental well-being.
“It’s horrible not to have one last day with my colleagues.
“The timing is atrocious. Everyone thought we would have at least this Christmas to prepare – it has completely knocked everyone off their feet and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“We were told we’d have a new beginning for Gomez a few years ago – but now, there’s nothing.”
It is believed as many as 90% of the staff are from mainland Europe – with many of the firm’s UK-born staff now stepping up to the plate to help write CVs for their colleagues.
As recently as March last year, Gomez bosses were hoping to invest resources into its Canterbury operations – launching a bid for a lorry base on the outskirts of the city.
The firm had wanted to reconfigure its site off Coldharbour Lane to make room for an increased number of HGVs to stay overnight – a move which was approved by council bosses in September 2022.
Gomez was previously owned by Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter but, according to Companies House, he gave up control of the business in September 2021.
Ms Hernandez was appointed managing director in October of that year.
According to the firm’s website, The Gomez Group farms more than 3,250 hectares of owned production in Spain, 11 hectares in the Netherlands and 15 hectares in the UK.
Multiple requests to Gomez by KentOnline for a statement regarding the closure have gone unanswered.