27 August 1998
Simmers businesses £10m in debt
GIANT Scottish farm business Arthur Simmers, which went bust this week, had debts of at least £10 million, it is thought.
Mr Simmers himself was head of two Aberdeenshire farming companies, with 16,000 sows, 120,000 rearing pigs, 1619ha (4000 acres) in grain and grass, and a dairy herd of 350.
The future of 260 employees is uncertain and the ripple effect is being felt throughout Scotland. Mr Simmers had 50 individual pig units of his own and about 40 contract rearers.
The entire business is now being run by receivers David Turner and Iain Bennet of PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Ideally, we would like to sell the business as a single, going concern, but that is unlikely. It will probably have to be broken up and there will be redundancies. In the meantime we will continue to trade, but with rapid downscaling of pig numbers,” Mr Turner said.
He confirmed that the main creditor was Lloyds TSB, followed by several feed companies, including Harbro, BOCM Pauls, Norvite, Bibby, and farmer co-op North Eastern Farmers. There were also many farmers who had supplied grain directly to the Simmers business.
Desperate efforts by Mr Simmers to save his firm in recent weeks included cross-guarantees from the dairy and arable side to the pig enterprise. But the continued collapse of pig prices proved too much and the receivers were called in on Tuesday afternoon (25 August).
By then, the sow herd had been reduced from 18,000 to 16,000 and an arrangement had been made with Cheale Meats to slaughter 1000 sows a week.
Scottish NFU vice-president Jim Walker said the collapse was the first big sign of the meltdown in the farming industry, which the union had been warning the Government about for months.
Scottish farm minister Lord Sewel, who has been visiting farms and crofts in north-west Scotland this week, said the collapse of the Simmers business was regrettable, and that he was sorry for those whose jobs were affected.
“But, because of over-production in the pig industry throughout Europe, in which Scotland has been a significant player, I am afraid some restructuring was inevitable,” he said.