2 March 2001

HOW GROUP PURCHASES CAN GIVE BIG SAVINGS

Buying pesticides has long

been a matter of negotiation.

Andrew Blake talks to three

backers of the group buying

approach to getting

products on to farms

A NORTHANTS-BASED buying group started in 1988 provides savings of 15-30% to its members, says farmers weekly barometer farmer Justin Blackwood.

The group, named Agrevise in 1998, has 11 agronomists supplying technical information and advice to 175 members over 34,500ha (85,000 acres).

"We have 16 companies supplying the group majoring on chemicals, seeds, fertilisers and farm-saved seed with no restriction on range of products," says Mr Blackwood.

"We have a unique, simple system which allows members to place orders by personalised fax after selecting from our coded product lists.

"Most commodities are negotiated on a trust scheme, with great emphasis on confidentiality of price and payment terms.

"There are still quite a lot of people who like negotiating deals, but more and more they have less time available to put into the job. 99% of the time we believe we can do a better job." Most new members now come via word of mouth, he notes.

A key feature is an operating principle discouraging small orders urging users to identify when products are needed. "Suppliers love it," says Mr Blackwood.

"It costs £23-£30 to get a delivery lorry on to a farm. So an order of just £50 represents a total loss."

Users are required to tick boxes stating whether their orders are "Urgent" or required in "24 hours" or "5-7 days".

"They do not tick the urgent box all the time," he stresses. "Group buying is a two-way thing. If we do not keep suppliers happy, how on earth can we expect them to keep their prices down?"

Not always better

Buying through a group often means pesticides for a particular tank mix come from various sources, says FW eastern barometer farmer, Stuart Knight. "Yes, we can get chemicals cheaper, but it may mean waiting for three different vans to turn up in the yard."

Membership fees vary. ADAS Direct charges a flat rate of 75p/acre irrespective of farm size. The Samuel Rose scheme costs £110 for the first 60ha (149 acres) with sliding scale extra charges of 20-40p/acre, larger units paying less.

The cost of S&P membership is included in the firms management and agronomy packages, says Mr Gemmill.