One third of UK fresh produce companies are on the "brink of failure", according to Plimsoll Publishing.

Zero growth, sliding profits and escalating debts were putting many companies under pressure, it claimed in its latest report. Many were unable to pass on cost increases to price-sensitive consumers.

The 333 companies rated as in a weak or dangerous position could be ripe for takeover, said Plimsoll. Further consolidation was inevitable. "A period of consolidation is long overdue," said analyst David Pattison. "Bit by bit the weaker players will be removed."