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Farmers Fresh abattoir retains its farmer control

A power struggle at Midlands abattoir Farmers Fresh has ended with a vote against three new director nominations and the appointment of two new directors.
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Shareholders voted two to one against three new director nominations put forward by Stephen Wood, co-founder of Farmers Fresh and former owner of the freehold on the abattoir.

 

Terry Bayliss, chairman of Farmers First, which bought the freehold from Mr Wood for £1.36m in 2012, said Mr Wood’s nominations were not in the interests of the company’s farmer owners nor its 70-plus employees.

 

Mr Bayliss said the decision at the firm’s AGM on May 16 meant farmer control had been retained. But Mr Wood said the vote was a missed opportunity to better represent abattoir management on the board.

 

“I hope the new board will action this,” he said.

 

He added that the losing candidates - Shaun Gilder, Simon Jones and Adam Wood - were farmer shareholders with deep knowledge of the company who would have represented farmer interests and offered valuable insights.

 

Two new directors were appointed; farmer John Geldard from Cumbria, who also has interests in marketing and retailing, and former Deloitte accountant Andrew Peters. Shareholders reappointed solicitor William Neville and Welsh sheep farmer Stuart Morris.

 

The abattoir in Warwickshire buys approximately 12,000 lambs a week, some direct from farms and the rest via livestock marts.

 

It finishes and exports 500,000 UK lambs to Europe each year.

 

“The competitive pressure this creates among buyers of finished lambs, both domestic and European, gives farmers valuable influence up the supply chain,” said Mr Bayliss.

 

"That’s why the business was started and remains our mission today.

 

"For a business this scale, the norm for AGM elections would be 20 per cent turnout. So it was very encouraging that 40 per cent of our 2,700 shareholders, owning more than 50 per cent of shares, took part.

 

"During pre-AGM consultations, we found widespread grassroots goodwill and appreciation for the company’s success as a farmer-founded and farmer-led business. Let’s not forget that the balance sheet at the most recent financial year end shows shareholders’ funds of £6.68m.

 

"There’s an ongoing investment programme to improve facilities and develop the customer offer. Over only the past four years, investments include buying the abattoir freehold for £1.36m and installing solar panels, a biomass boiler and new boning hall for a combined £675,000 total.

 

"It is quite understandable that some busy farmers may not realise quite what a success this business is. Clearly, it’s in farmer shareholders’ long term interests that they retain control of the company."

 


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