The move would represent a blow for supporters of UK speciality and fine food makers and for the regional food network that was originally set up to promote them. The ripple effect could put hundreds of jobs at risk across the speciality food sector, which HEFF supported, it warned.
The organisation said the recent loss after three years of a six-year contract it had with Shropshire Council for the management of the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre had significantly hit its funds.
In addition, cash allocated in January from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to support HEFF’s international work had not materialised and there had been slow trading across other areas of the business.
Not generating sufficient income
A move to Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology in March 2014 had provided the organisation with a medium- to long-term life line. However, in the short-term it was not generating sufficient income to replace its lost funding and therefore could not ensure its future viability, it said.
In a statement issued today (June 17), HEFF said: “Even at this late stage, we are hopeful a solution may be found before a meeting for shareholders convened by [insolvency practitioners] Rimes & Co on July 9 at 11.00am at Stone Manor Hotel, Kidderminster.
“A meeting for creditors will follow the shareholders’ meeting with the purpose of confirming the appointment of a liquidator.”
HEFF was originally set up in 1998 with government funding to support start-up businesses and small- to medium-sized enterprises in the food industry. Since that time it had delivered 17 contracts funded through central government, the Regional Development Agency, local authorities or the Regional Development Fund, it said.
It called the government “short-sighted” in not recognising the value it could bring to the sector.
“Over the past 16 years HEFF has generated in the region of £90M through its work, created and safeguarded in excess of 2,000 jobs and supported at least 2,800 food and drink manufacturers.”
In the past few months HEFF’s directorial board had worked with the executive team to explore all potential options to enable HEFF to remain open for business, it said. But despite valiant efforts it had failed to secure additional sources of public or private sector income.
“Whilst, over the next quarter, we would have liked to wind the business up ourselves unfortunately, this is not feasible due to cash flow issues,” HEFF stated.
HEFF promotes and raises awareness of food and drink within the heart of England. It covers Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Birmingham and the Black Country, Cheshire and Oxfordshire. It helps the region’s food and drink businesses to develop and create profitable and sustainable markets for their products.