Frontier lorries outside one of the firm's buildings

Frontier Agriculture made a pre-tax profit of £34.8m in the year to 30 June 2017, a rise of 7% on the previous year.

Turnover at the merchant rose by 4% to almost £1.45bn, the result of higher commodity prices.

Net assets at £245m were similar to the previous year and a dividend of £22.2m is proposed.

See also: Model farm focus on crop concerns and future support

Grain-related annual gross earnings represented 45% of the group total, said the firm, which in the past few years had taken on grain marketing for farmer co-ops Camgrain, Aberdeen Grain and Woldgrain.

At the same time it has continued to expand its agronomy services, mainly through acquisition, so its agronomist team grew to 155 during the year with the acquisition of Shropshire-based BCW.  

Chairman David Yiend’s report said the combination of low market volatility, low export surplus, and pressured crop inputs gross margins made it a tough trading environment for all farmgate businesses.

The year saw £8m of investment approved for grain storage, seed processing, crop protection distribution, crop trials and smart IT software, while the crop inputs business and non-grain-related activities grew.

Frontier was formed in 2005 and is a joint venture between Associated British Foods and Cargill. It has 44 sites across the UK and employs more than 1,100 people.