Farmers and creditors of failed online butcher Farmison left £7.3m out of pocket

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Nearly 200 farmers and unsecured creditors owed more than £7 million after the collapse of online butcher Farmison & Co have been told they are not set to get any money back despite a rescue deal led by the former boss of Asda.

A report from administrators FRP Advisory revealed 199 unsecured creditors – including trade suppliers and around a dozen rare breeds meat farmers – were left £7.3 million out of pocket when Farmison went bust in April.

The report confirmed their fears that they will not be able to recoup any of the cash owed to them by the failed firm, estimating there will not be enough funds to make any payouts to unsecured creditors.

The firm was bought less than three weeks later by a group of investors led by ex-Asda chief executive Andy Clarke, which has since restarted trading at the premium butcher.

Mr Clarke teamed up for the deal with branding experts Chilli Marketing and its former founder and managing director, Gareth Whittle, who was also a board member of Farmison before it went into administration.

Farmison’s failure left many of the farmers facing severe cashflow problems and with meat and herds they have struggled to sell elsewhere.

Many of its farmer suppliers have been left being owed thousands, with some more than £70,000 out of pocket.

The group also employed around 75 staff in Ripon, most of whom were made redundant when FRP was appointed as administrator.

Its workforce was owed around £86,000 in salary, holiday pay and pension benefits, but the administrator’s report shows they are only set to get 31p in the pound back.

The new owners of Farmison said they have since signed up the majority of its farmers to continue supplying meat and re-hired more than 40 of the workers let go, with aims to get more than 50 former staff back on board after restarting the business.

But some of the farmers are furious after being left with substantial unpaid invoices, while others said they had already stopped supplying the company some months before it went bust due to unpaid invoices.

Lexi Staveley of Yorkshire Woodland Pork in Ripon said they were owed nearly £2,000 by Farmison when it failed, but had already seen the firm drastically cut their exclusive supply deal since January, leaving then with a backlog of fattening pigs.

Yorkshire Woodland Pork – which rears a variety of breeds such as the Tamworth, Berkshire, Mangalica and Iron Age pigs – has managed to secure supply deals with other firms since, but said Farmison’s collapse had a “bulldozer effect” on their business.

Not only were they owed vital cash, but they were also left with unsold pigs that were getting too fat to sell on for a premium price.

Ms Staveley said: “It’s really impacted our business. Fortunately we have now got a local farm shop which is taking pigs from us, but we ended up with a backlog of pigs that were ready to go.”

Another creditor, film production company Iceni Studios, which made a raft of films about Farmison farmers showing the traceability of the firm’s meat, has been left owed more than £5,300.

Georgia Bagnall, founder of Iceni, said: “We will survive, but it has had an impact.

“We were about to hire and to move office, but we’re now putting that on hold. As a young business trying to grow organically, this has really affected our cashflow.

“We were relying on them to pay their bills on time.”

A spokesman for the new owners of Farmison said: “We’re pleased to have rescued the business from administration, re-employing many of the team in Ripon and bringing back its hand-picked farmers from across the north of England.

“We’re already trading again and we’re grateful for the messages of support from customers.”

Farmison launched in 2011 as a sustainable online meat retailer, before being bought out in February 2022 by private equity firm Inverleith.

Inverleith also had a stake in Planet Organic – which likewise went into administration recently and was immediately sold in a so-called pre-pack deal to investors including the founders of Planet Organic, Renee and Brian Elliott.

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