Sheep-farmer support for Farmers First

By Farmers Weekly staff

SHEEP farmers are showing a keen interest in Farmers First.

The planned umbrella company will raise cash for live exporter Farmers Ferry and its new sister company, Farmers Fresh, launched in March to capture on-the-hook trade.

The prospectus will not be released until the Royal Show in early July.

But group director Mike Gooding says many of the 6000 Farmers Ferry members have already said they will donate the 250 each needed to establish the new plc holding company.

“We have written to all members and have had a very strong response,” says Mr Gooding.

The share issue will raise 3 million to help develop the companys abattoir at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and to develop live and deadstock markets on the Continent.

That means new farmer investors are being sought.

Growth will not be restricted by abattoir capacity, it seems.

Although the company is “not specifically looking” for a site, expansion north and west into the main sheep-producing areas is likely.

“It makes sense to reduce the transport-in costs. But any plant will have to be highly efficient.”

Given the recent weakening of the Euro – which has pushed up the price of UK exports by almost 8% in the past year – such savings are vital.

“Its a challenge,” says Mr Gooding.

“Apart from lobbying, we can do little about the strength of Sterling. But we can influence our own costs, efficiency and marketing.”

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