6 September 2002

Norfolk rings turnover tops £1m

CO-OPERATIVE use of labour and equipment through Norfolks local machinery ring is thriving as farmers seek to reduce costs by drawing on its widespread resources.

The Norfolk & Waveney Machinery Ring, which operates throughout Norfolk and north Suffolk, has announced preliminary figures showing a turnover of more than £1m for the year ending June 30.

"During its 11 years of trading, the ring has seen a rapid growth in turnover and membership, which now stands at well over 350," says manager Stuart Naunton.

The ring acts as an agency for its members, who include farmers, specialist growers, contractors, labour providers, machinery dealers and hire companies, by putting those in need of a machine or service in contact with a suitable supplier.

Charges are negotiated between the two parties, but the ring then provides all administration and accounting on their behalf, which ensures prompt and reliable payment.

"Services supplied through the ring vary from the hire of a piece of equipment for a day or two, to complete harvesting operations valued at tens of thousands of £s," says Mr Naunton.

"But the primary role of the ring is to cut fixed costs by enabling farming businesses to reduce their investment in machinery and labour or spread their investment and generate some income by carrying out work for others.

Restructuring has helped the Norfolk & Waveney ring to keep its overheads to a minimum.

Until two years ago, it was run by four part-time managers. Today, Mr Naunton is its full-time manager, but he assisted on a part-time basis by Grayam Peters, who looks after the area north west of Norwich.

Administration and secretarial services are bought in from fellow Norfolk farming co-op Loddon Farmers.

Keeping operating costs low allows the ring to repay some of the 2% levy charged to members, who generate a lot of turnover by making regular and extensive use of the ring. "It encourages and rewards loyalty as well as attracting repeat business year on year," says Mr Naunton. &#42

Services supplied through the ring vary from the hire of a piece of equipment for a day or two, to complete harvesting operations valued at tens of thousands of £s.