Farmers First, the company behind the Farmers Fresh business at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, is holding its annual general meeting (AGM) on May 16 and has urged its 2,700 shareholders to help retain its farmer focus.
With concerns mounting among some directors that a certain group of shareholders wants to dilute the number of farmers on the Farmers First board, they have called on all shareholders to make their views clear ahead of, or during, the AGM. Proxy votes need to be in by May 13.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian last week, company spokesman Mike Gooding and Cumbrian sheep farmer John Geldard, who is soon to join the board, said a producer-led abattoir which bought both direct and from livestock marts was something which needed preserving.
Mr Gooding said: "The very ethos of the business is about farmer control over their stock through the supply chain and that is as relevant today as when we started.
"We have shareholders in every county and they have invested because they could see it was vital to have a farmer owned and led business in the red meat supply chain."
Mr Gooding and Farmers First chairman Terry Bayliss were concerned the introduction of a new board, who potentially did not have the interest of farmers at heart, could affect the future direction of the business.
And with the likes of Dunbia and 2 Sisters rumoured to be exploring potential red meat merger options, which could see further consolidation within the processing sector, Mr Geldard said it was crucial to have a company such as Farmers First which ’delivers for farmers’.
Farmers First processes 12,000 lambs a week through the Farmers Fresh abattoir.
Farmers First emerged from the Farmers Ferry initiative in the late-1990s, when farmers across the UK made donations to get a ferry up and running to maintain live exports.