Countrywide Farmers’ recent restructuring programme cost the farmer-controlled business £2.2m, according to its 2005 accounts.

After tax and interest charges, the company returned a total loss of £3.1m for the year ending 31 May 2005.

Managing director John Hardman claimed group trading operations were much healthier following the reforms.

 “We have a platform to develop the group’s unrealised potential for generating rewards for shareholders and employees alike.”

The firm, which has 11,000 farmer-shareholders, ceased manufacturing animal feeds at its Melksham site last August, with production of its compounded feed brands passing to BOCM Pauls.

This, and more than 50 redundancies, cost the firm £1.2m. “But that is a write-off of assets and, as such, has not depleted our cash facilities,” said Mr Hardman.

Many ruminant feeders had moved away from compounds in favour of blends and straights, and this, coupled with higher distribution and haulage costs, had forced the changes, Mr Hardman said.

The group was looking at options for the Melksham site, which would bring cash back into the business.

Other sectors of the group’s business reported better performance. Countrywide’s fastest-growing sector was energy and utilities.

Sales of fuel, electricity and telecommunications grew 45% on the year to return an operating profit of £800,000.

Its chain of Countrywide retail stores increased profits by £600,000 to £800,000.

The business opened five new branches this year, including one at Cirencester, Glos, which shares a site with the town’s new livestock market.