Low commodity prices ‘mask’ volume growth at Anglia Farmers

PUBLISHED: 16:57 27 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:57 27 May 2015

Clarke Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers. Picture: Denise Bradley

Clarke Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

Despite a volatile year for the farming industry, a Norfolk-based agricultural buying group has reported 12 months of continued growth, with turnover increasing by 2.2pc.

The AF Group, consisting of purchasing co-operative Anglia Farmers and its three wholly-owned subsidiaries AF Affinity, AF Finance and AF Biomass has more than 3,000 members farming more than 1.1m hectares across the UK.

The EDP Top 100 firm’s audited accounts show a turnover of £247.5m – up from £242m – with an operating surplus of £802,000 and a net surplus of £289,376 after payments to members and tax.

Chief executive Clarke Willis said: “The real growth in volumes during the year is masked by the large reductions in prices of key commodities such as fuel (down 21pc in the year), fertiliser, cereal seed and animal feed. These key product areas showed a volume growth on average of 5.5pc during the year.

“Several major national initiatives have contributed to our success, including a membership category for the Waitrose Farming Partnership and our strategic alliance with First Milk which allows all their dairy farmers to buy through the group.”

In its fourth year of trading, AF Affinity – which offers group purchasing to non-agricultural businesses – saw its turnover grow to £5.75m, returning returned a pre-tax profit of £28,973 to the group.

Mr Willis said the business has grown through a number of partnerships to provide village-based fuel schemes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Oxford as well as collaborations with organisations including the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Visit East Anglia.

Meanwhile AF Biomass, the group’s straw marketing business which supplies livestock farmers and biomass power stations, had revenues of £2.43m producing a small profit of £3,140. Projected volumes for harvest 2015 are now up to 75,000 tonnes with some “significant contracts” agreed with new power stations.

Overall, the group’s administrative costs increased during the year as AF managed the funding of the Edge Apprenticeship programme. The two-year project’s total costs of £993,903 were met by a Growth and Innovation Fund grant from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), along with match funding from industry and charities. The project continues as Edge Careers, signposting young people to work and training opportunities in agriculture.

The group’s annual general meeting will be held on 25 June at Anglia Farmers’ headquarters in Honingham Thorpe, near Norwich.

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