Speculation mounts over sums owed by Scots grain merchant

Speculation is growing over the amount owed to farmers, traders, hauliers and other suppliers to Alexander Inglis & Son, which is in administration.

More than 100 farmers attended an online meeting on Monday 31 May, organised by NFU Scotland, about the fallout from the Scottish grain merchant’s failure.

While there is no confirmation yet of the total owed, it is likely to dwarf the £15m that was outstanding in the Wellgrain administration of 2017.

“There are many questions to be answered, but these are devastating times for the trade, and farmers and hauliers,” said one merchant.

Alexander Inglis & Son facts

  • Founded 1950, based near Edinburgh
  • £99m turnover – most recent accounts are for the year ended 31 December 2019
  • Administration handled by Tom MacLennan and Chad Griffin, partners in advisory firm FRP

See also: Farmers owed huge sums by collapsed Scottish grain trader

There are issues with the stock levels of grain and other commodities, including malting barley, wheat, oilseed rape and oats, at four stores in Scotland and one in Northumberland.

In a statement issued to Farmers Weekly as it went to press, the administrators said: “The joint administrators confirm there are competing claims over the remaining stock and that an application to court has been made seeking directions to assist in agreeing a process for resolving these disputes. 

“This involves authorising the company to sell the majority of grain which is subject to material disputes, with net proceeds being available to valid stock claimants following subsequent adjudication of claims.” 

The administrators said there is a significant shortage of grain stock relative to claims, and that their plan was an appropriate and fair solution in difficult circumstances. 

Advice from NFU Scotland farmer meeting for those affected

  • Check your contract: a big issue seems to be inadequate contracts, and probable inadequate record-keeping and implementation
  • Provide the administrator with as much evidence as possible that you are a creditor, and about the amount of money you are owed. As there were cases of verbal contracts, this could include dates, times and notes of phone calls with Inglis staff
  • If you have sold grain to a third party and it is in an Inglis store, provide information and evidence about this to the administrators
  • Some farmers will be debtors as well as creditors. Where barter deals were in place – for example, crops for fertiliser – check the contract to identify if this is categorised as a deduction or a charge

“The quantity of stock at each of the company premises is significantly less than expected, and significantly less than the claims on the stock received by the joint administrators from third parties,” they said in a letter to creditors.

“In a number of instances, the contracts entered into by the company for sale, purchase, or storage required the company to store the relevant stock separately, or with notices identifying ownership of the relevant stock.

“It appears the company did not do so, leading to significant issues in identification of ownership and reconciliation of the stock. As a result, it is not possible to identify any particular stock as relating to any particular contract.”

Some grain traders have formally objected to the application for permission to sell the stocks. A hearing is expected within the next two weeks, but no date has been set.

Savills is marketing four stores previously operated by Alexander Inglis & Son and associated companies Tayside Grain Company and Inglis Grain Driers.

These are at Errol, Tranent, Melrose and Morpeth, with an early sale being pushed for so that the stores will be available in time for harvest for another operator to run.