By FWi staff

DESPITE its core UK arable business breaking even, the Dalgety Group reports a 3 million loss.

Most of the loss can be attributed to its eastern European operations and restructuring costs within the UK.

Figures for the year ending 31 March, 2000, show the groups turnover topped 526m.

Over 26m of funds were generated, most of which were used to repay loans used for the management buyout from Dalgety plc.

“We have now reduced our borrowings to zero,” says commercial director Andrew Barnard.

He adds that, after further disposals, the withdrawal from the animal feed market is now complete.

After a number of small but strategic acquisitions in the UK arable sector, the group reports a 5m cash balance.

Mr Barnard says it is looking for more opportunities, both at home and abroad, but would not give specific details.

In eastern Europe, the group incurred a 1m loss after shutting down its operations in Romania, due to extremely difficult trading conditions.

Dalgety Agra, the groups Polish offshoot, also posted a 1m loss, but Mr Barnard says this was a very worthwhile cost.

“The business is just coming out of the development stage and will hopefully be moving into an operating profit this year.”

Turnover increased to 30m and, with Poland included in the next wave of European enlargement, he believes there is plenty of scope for further growth.

The executive could not be drawn on forecasts for the coming year, but maintains trading conditions will continue to be very tough.

“There have been some tremendous losses in the arable marketplace, but hopefully our position of zero debt will help us to weather the storm,” he said.