MORE than 20 jobs could be at risk at the Countrywide Farmers retail store in Melksham, which has gone into administration along with the rest of the group.

The Worcestershire-based company is one of the UK's leading agricultural goods suppliers with 735 employees and 48 stores, including Thornbury and Chepstow.

It sells a wide range of farming, equestrian, agricultural and harvesting supplies, mainly to the local farming community.

Its store on the Bradford Road at Melksham occupies a prominent site just off the Farmers roundabout on the A350 and has been there for many years.

Today, the store’s manager Ian Nisbeck, said he had been advised not to comment. The store’s employees were told yesterday and now face an uncertain future.

David Pike, Mark Orton and Will Wright, of chartered accountants KPMG, have been appointed as Joint Administrators of Countrywide Farmers Plc, as from March 7.

The joint administrators, who are seeking to sell the business and its assets, said no "initial redundancies" had been made.

Countrywide directors said with "significant regret" the business faces "a very uncertain future" after running into financial difficulties.

The company, based in Evesham, announced plans to sell in April 2017, but a potential sale to North Devon-based Mole Valley Farmers Ltd fell through in October.

Countrywide Farmers announced on March 1 it had sold its liquefied petroleum gas division to DCC Flogas.

However, its retail business sale to Mole Valley could not be approved because of competition laws. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced an investigation.

Countrywide said it was going into administration as the CMA investigation could last up to six months, and the company would be "unable to meet its financial obligations for this extended period of time".

David Pike, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, commented: “Following the recent CMA announcement, the proposed retail transaction cannot proceed.

“Unfortunately, given the significant trading difficulties and cash flow pressures, this has led the directors to consider their options and take the difficult decision to place the company into administration.

“It is the Joint Administrators’ intention to seek a purchaser for the business in whole or part and we have appointed Hilco Capital to assist in running the stores whilst we explore and develop available options.”