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Farmer-Control Retained at Sheep Processor Farmers First

25 May 2016

UK - Farmer control has been retained at Farmers First, where more than half-a-million finished UK lambs annually are processed and exported to Europe.

At the Monday 17 May AGM, shareholders voted for seven board resolutions and against three new director nominations, which the board believed were not in the interests of the company's farmer owners nor its 70-plus employees, from an activist shareholder.

Wholly owned by Farmers First, the Farmers Fresh abattoir in Warwickshire buys approximately 12,000 lambs a week, some direct from farm and the rest via livestock marts. The competitive pressure this creates among buyers of finished lambs, both domestic and European, gives farmers valuable influence up the supply chain, according to chairman Terry Bayliss.

"That is why the business was started and remains our mission today," he explains. "For a business this scale, the norm for AGM elections would be 20 per cent turnout. So it was very encouraging that 40 per cent of our 2,700 shareholders, owning more than 50 per cent of shares, took part."

Among resolutions passed were appointment of new directors, farmer John Geldard from Cumbria and former Deloitte accountant Andrew Peters. Shareholders re-appointed solicitor Willian Neville and Welsh sheep farmer Stuart Morris.

Mr Bayliss continues: "During pre-AGM consultations, we found widespread grass-roots goodwill and appreciation for the company's success as a farmer-founded and farmer-led business. Let us not forget that the balance sheet at the most recent financial year end shows shareholders' funds of £6.68 million.

"There is an ongoing investment programme to improve facilities and develop the customer offer. Over only the past four years, investments include buying the abattoir freehold for £1.36 million and installing solar panels, a biomass boiler and new boning hall for a combined £675,000 total.

"It is quite understandable that some busy farmers may not realise quite what a success this business is. Clearly, it is in farmer-shareholders' long term interests that they retain control of the company."

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