By Robert Harris

FLAX growers are stepping up their fight to secure thousands of pounds in overdue payments from their crop processor.

Several farmers who grew crops for the Industrial Crop Partnership and its Cornwall-based processing arm, Tamlyn, contacted farmers weekly to complain that they have been awaiting balancing payments from 1999 crops since last autumn.

Some have persuaded the NFU to take up their case.

Under the EU flax regime, a grower can receive all the area aid or it can be split between the grower and the primary processor.

However, ICP/Tamlyns contract for the 1999 crop stipulated that the company would pass on an amount equal to the area aid payment, less agreed costs, to growers within 30 days of it receiving payment from the Intervention Board.

When questioned by FARMERS WEEKLY in May, Steven Rudkin – the then ICP/Tamlyn managing director – confirmed he would settle all final payments by the end of June.

Almost five weeks later, growers are still waiting.

Rhianne Ebsworth, who farms with her husband Andrew at Brunant Farm, near Whitland, Carmarthen, grew 200 acres of flax for ICP/Tamlyn in 1999.

She says her cheque was due last November. “But we are still owed over 34,000 nearly two years after harvesting the crop.”

The NFU is investigating the case to try to secure payment for its members, but was unable to comment. The IB is also taking a keen interest, but would not go into details.

Paul Kettle says he is now an unpaid joint managing director of ICP/Tamlyn following Mr Rudkins recent resignation.

“It has never been our intention to hang on to the money. But the Intervention Board still owes us about 50,000 for the 1999 crop.

“Our 1m plant has been mothballed. But we are exploring other areas. We intend to remain solvent and pay farmers every penny they are owed.”