Harvested sugar beet crop© Tim Scrivener

The UK’s largest farmer buying group, Anglia Farmers (AF), has reported an increased turnover despite lower commodity prices in 2016-17.

The year to 31 January 2017 saw group turnover rise by £3.3m to £234.2m, recovering slightly on the £16m fall reported in 2015-16 because of lower commodity prices.

Despite this, it also reported a 14% reduction in operating surplus to £760,360, and a 29% fall in the net surplus retained for its members to £229,821.

See also: Anglia Farmers reveals lower turnover but higher surplus

The group’s accounts include results for purchasing co-operative Anglia Farmers with four wholly owned subsidiaries AF Affinity, AF Finance, AF Biomass and the newly introduced AF Logic.

Leadership change

Group chief executive Clarke Willis stood down from his role in March after 15 years. Commenting on the annual figures, he said: “The AF Group has delivered another solid performance and strengthens its position as a vital link in the supply chain from input suppliers to retailers.

“I leave the AF Group business on a sound financial footing.”

The group’s new chief executive, Jon Duffy, who took over on Mr Willis’ departure in March, announced a “fresh customer-focused approach”.

“I am clear in my approach that AF needs to add real value to our members in the shape of saving time and cost.

“We’ll do this by sourcing the right product or service, with the right advice, delivered smoothly and efficiently with ease of administration.”

 “AF is entering into effective dialogue with our partners of choice for the benefit of the membership, and collaboration between members and suppliers is vital,” he added.

New introduction

AF has more than 3,100 members farming more than 1.02m hectares across the UK, with its membership accounting for 57.4% of the UK’s sugar beet; 28.9% of potatoes and 13.1% of wheat crops.

AF Affinity, providing group purchasing to non-agricultural businesses, reported a 20% increase in turnover to £8.3m, up from £6.6m in the previous financial year, and returned £85,686 to the group.

Professional straw merchant AF Biomass saw sales increase to £4m and recorded a net surplus of £60,880.

AF Finance, an agent in peer-to-peer lending, loaned £4.3m to members.

AF Logic, created in 2016 to supply crop protection products to members, achieved more than £1m of sales in its first half-year of trading.