Glencore blames £4m loss on lack of exportable surplus

Grain trader Glencore Agriculture UK has plunged to a £4m pre-tax loss after a sharp dip in the number of tonnes traded.

Its annual financial report, made up to 31 December 2017, shows a pre-tax loss of £4m from a turnover of £261.9m after an operating profit in the previous year of £1m on a turnover of £256.4m.

Glencore said the losses were due to a 15% decline in tonnes of commodities traded, with the poor 2017 harvest making less product available, and the UK’s longer-term decline in an exportable surplus of grains and oilseeds also weighing on the firm.

It is the latest in a string of grain trading companies to have a difficult year, with significant losses also seen at Cofco, Openfield and Fengrain and severe profit declines at Cefetra and Gleadell Agriculture.

Glencore Agriculture UK managing director James Maw said the company is now seeing the benefits of moving away from a focus on exporting grain to importing animal feed ingredients via its parent company, global trader Glencore Agriculture, and it is “back in the black” in 2018.

See also: Cereal varieties: Winners and losers at harvest 2018

“Three years ago we exported 1m tonnes and imported nothing,” he said. “But this calendar year we will be close to 1m tonnes of imports and exports will be approximately 50,000t.”

This week marks the first arrival of a shipment of dried distillers’ grains from the US for Glencore. This docked at Immingham on Wednesday (10 October), after the closure of Vivergo significantly depleted home-produced supplies of the feedstuff.

The company has focused on adding import capacity in Teesport, to serve the high concentration of pig finishers in the region, and on the Isle of Portland, allowing better access to south-western livestock farmers.

Access in the South has been facilitated by the purchase in April 2017 of Dorset-based feed trading firm Mercury Commodities, which had previously been its soya bean meal customer, and allowed Glencore to broaden imports to other straights such as wheat and maize gluten, rape meal and sugar beet pellets.

Glencore Agriculture UK is a division of international commodities trading company Glencore Agriculture, which is part owned by mining giant Glencore and two Canadian pension companies.

This article has been updated since it was first published.