8 October 1999

Supply business could boost farmer returns

FARMER ownership of the agricultural supply business is one way beleaguered farmers can boost returns from the whole rural industry, not just their individual farm enterprises, says a leading farm supply co-op.

"Farmers must ensure that they, rather than external investors, get the lions share of the agricultural supply industrys earnings," says John Bush, chairman of Countrywide Farmers.

Highlighting the scope for such involvement he points out that for every £100 spent on food in a shop, £25 typically goes to the farmer, of which £10 is spent on agricultural supplies.

Countrywide, the result of a merger between Midland Shires Farmers and West Midland Farmers, is actively courting other farmer-owned organisations in a bid to add to the critical mass required to compete with national input suppliers.

"In the past co-ops have gone bust rather than surrender their autonomy," notes John Rutherford, managing director of Countrysides agriculture division. "We now have an audited financial formula to ensure farmer shareholders get an equitable deal rather than a simple £ for £ deal."

Countrywide already has 11,000 farmer shareholders.