Calf-shipping co-op Anglo-European Farming continues to operate this week, but the relationship between it and competing ferry operator Agri Shipping is becoming increasingly acrimonious.
AEF farmer director David Owens said there was “money in the bank” and he was still hopeful that the 1000 plus farmers who had invested £3 a cow to help set up the business, which ships calves to Holland, mainly for veal, would get their money back “if things could be put back on track”.
However, the firm’s ferry Lygra is currently being operated out of Dover by Dutch operator Hans Nuyssenborgh and Mr Owens admitted he was not sure what the future held.
He denied accusations that the cooperative had been mismanaged and that its directors had agreed to pay themselves generous salaries before an animal had even been shipped. It is alleged that a figure of £100,000 was earmarked for Mr Owens with £50,000 being paid each to three other directors.
“I’m not prepared to say what people are paid, but I’m not on £100,000,” said Mr Owens. “For the work everybody did they should have been paid more,” he added.
Interests of farmers
The main reason the business was struggling was because two of its main suppliers had switched to Agri Shipping, which is runs the smaller Pentalina B, said Mr Owens. He said Agri -Shipping did not have the interests of farmers at heart and did not want them to have any control of the business.
Andrew Ross, a Scottish calf dealer who has been using AEF, said: “Lies are being spread to damage the name of anybody associated with Anglo-European.”
But an Agri Shipping spokesman said it had tried to negotiate with AEF about using the Lygra, but some struggling dairy farmers could not afford the £3 an animal charge. It had then agreed to charter the boat once a week but this deal had collapsed after only two weeks.
Industry commentator Ian Potter said that the two parties needed to put aside their “personalities and ambitions”. “I would like to see one boat being run cost effectively and delivering a better price to the UK dairy farmer.”
If a deal could not be agreed the industry risked losing control of the export calf trade to Dutch businessmen, he added.