7 November 1997

Scottish co-ops see big losses over past year

SCOTLANDS two biggest farm supply co-ops have made substantial losses in the past year.

The biggest, Aberdeenshire-based North Eastern Farmers, made a pre-tax loss of £964,000 on a turnover of £56m. Central Farmers, which covers Fife, Angus, and Tayside, made a pre-tax loss of £66,000 on a turnover of £18m.

Both financial years were to the end of June and both companies blamed falling grain prices and the effects of BSE for the poor results.

For NEF it was the third year of losses (£363,000 last year and £1.12m in the 1995 annual report). But chairman John Mackie told a news briefing on Tuesday (Nov 4) that the group was now budgeting for a small surplus after a radical restructuring.

Mr Mackie said it was in the process of selling its headquarters and feed mill in Aberdeen and moving to Turriff, where it recently bought the premises and feed mill of Dalgety. Other non-core businesses, like those supplying fuel and pet foods, had been sold off and some depots had been closed.

But the biggest move had been the sale in August of the oat processing plant in Banffshire to Morning Foods. Mr Mackie admitted that the oats business had been responsible for most of the losses in the past three years.

Conversely, central Farmers was reporting its first loss for 11 years, after a profit of £131,000 last year. Chairman, Andrew Kay, said less grain and fertiliser had been traded and turnover had fallen by £2m. The strength of sterling, falling commodity prices and the effects of BSE throughout the industry had caused the profits plunge, he explained. &#42

Allan Wright