8 March 2002

Share deadline extension

FARMERS First has raised an extra £50,000 after extending its latest share issue for a week. At the close of business on Wednesday, the total amount available to help rebuild the business after foot-and-mouth stood at about £250,000.

Many existing members increased their shareholding, but about half the applicants are new to the company, says group marketing director Mike Gooding.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, was impressed with the result, even though it fell far short of the £1.25m legal maximum.

"I am amazed they have got as much. The industry has been reeling and the very fact they have raised more than two-and-a-half times the minimum necessary is a real vote of confidence."

He reckons the biggest problem for Farmers First has been the lack of cash available in the struggling livestock sector.

But the company will be commissioning a survey to identify why farmers are reluctant to take the first step towards change.

Although more money will be needed from grants and bank loans, the capital raised will help promote new processed products like Meat Strips and deliver the benefits more directly to shareholders, says Mr Gooding.

In the past, some observers have pointed out farmers investing in the company helped boost prices for all producers, effectively subsidising them. &#42