By Farmers Weekly staff

SCOTLANDS two largest farm supply co-operatives are set to merge.

Together, North Eastern Farmers and Central Farmers will create a business with about 9000 members and a projected turnover of over 50 million 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.”