24 March 2000

Giant Scottish merger

SCOTLANDS two largest farm supply co-operatives, North Eastern Farmers and Central Farmers, are set to merge, creating a business with about 9000 members and a projected turnover in excess of £50m a year.

If members of the two co-ops approve the plan already agreed by the boards of both businesses, the new co-op could be operating by early summer.

The slump in agricultural fortunes has adversely affected both co-ops. Last year, NEF reported a loss of £283,000 on a £43m turnover, while Central Farmers lost £420,000 on its £12m turnover. Losses in 1998 were even greater.

A merged business will provide cost savings and increased purchasing strength, says Brian Hutchison, NEFs managing director. Central Farmers managing director, Jeremy Saunders, adds: "This is the first step of an ambitious and innovative plan to develop further the agricultural co-operative concept throughout the whole of Scotland.

"It is a logical step towards gaining greater influence and security for farmers in the purchasing of essential inputs and the marketing of produce." &#42