Ostrich farming firm runs into difficulty


SURROUNDED by everything from llamas to albino wallabies on his `safari' farm in rural Flanders, Mr Eddy Nachtergaele vowed yesterday his ostrich farming business would continue with or without the Ostrich Farming Corporation (OFC).

Since the British government moved last week to wind up OFC, Mr Nachtergaele has received more than 500 telephone calls and a handful of personal visits from anxious owners of the ostriches he rears, who invested via OFC.

The company ran advertisements in Irish newspapers over recent months, but it is not yet clear how much money the company raised in Ireland. The company operated from an office at Clifton House in Dublin.

The company "guaranteed" annual returns of more than 50 per cent through a scheme to buy back ostrich chicks. It is believed to have taken in millions of pounds in recent months.

Mr Nachtergaele said he would write to all owners ill the next few days to allay their fears. "All the owners are supporting me, and we will continue to farm. You can be sure of that 300 per cent," he said. "This is not a fantasy scheme. We have spent lots and lots of money.

In front of him, rows of neat pens surrounded by ugh wire fences each contained a group of ostriches. Many of the females were leaning forward, unfolding and shaking their wings, a sign that the laying season had begun.

Mr Nachtergaele said representatives of the British official receiver, appointed by the Department of Trade and Industry as provisional liquidator of OFC, visited him on Saturday to count birds and inspect the facilities.

Mr Nachtergaele (43), a specialist animal breeder who calls his farm in the Flemish village of Amougies, 40km south of Ghent, Amo Safari, rears everything from dromedaries to cassowaries. He branched into ostrich farming 10 years ago, and linked up with OFC in 1994, when he met one of its directors, Mr Allan Walker.

Now most of his ostriches are farmed on behalf of the company, and he is paid according to the number of birds he delivers. He provided the expertise, he said, while OFC provided the capital he needed to expand more quickly than he could have done on his own. Until now, he said, he had never had a problem with OFC.

Mr Nachtergaele said he had 500 birds at Amougies, almost 1,000 at another farm in Beaumont, southern Belgium, and between 2,000 and 2,500 on five satellite farms.