Belfast Telegraph

'Slow progress' in bid to sell assets of bust Co Armagh mushroom firm with £1m-plus debts

By Margaret Canning

Administrators of a mushroom firm in Co Armagh which went bust owing over £1m still hope to sell parts of the business, it has emerged.

Button Farm Mushrooms Ltd, which had been founded by David and Johnny McKew in Collone near Markethill, went bust in October with the loss of nearly 40 jobs.

PwC this week said they were still in discussions about the sale of equipment and machinery and premises but that progress had been "slow".

An administrators' report filed by PwC revealed that a combination of poor-quality compost and the loss of a key customer had contributed to the firm's failure.

It owes just over £250,000 to the Northern Ireland Growth Loan Fund and around £660,000 to Bank of Ireland. Unsecured creditors are owed a total of £356,000.

Stephen Cave and Toby Scott Underwood from PwC were appointed administrators on October 18.

The company was set up in February 2014 to grow, pack and sell mushrooms from six mushroom houses in Collone.

Its main customers included Gilfresh Produce, Walsh Mushrooms Group and Gold Circle Mushrooms.

The directors had made a major investment in their facilities, ploughing £1.5m into a processing and packing facility in 2015 with the support of NIGLF.

But problems worsened during 2017, according to the report, and the firm obtained funding from NIGLF, shareholders and Bank of Ireland.

"However it proved ineffective in helping the business with its immediate cash pressure," the report added.

The directors then sought insolvency advice and looked at possibilities including the sale of the business, but there was not enough time to find a buyer outside the insolvency process.

At the start of October, the directors could not pay wages and trade creditors took the decision to place the firm into administration.

The directors and administrators found that continuing to trade the business was not a viable option and instead began a process of selling the business and premises.

According to the report, around 12 parties have expressed an interest in the business. The report added Bank of Ireland had agreed to support the administrators by providing funding to cover the costs of securing, holding and realising the assets.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.