Profits rise at Mole Valley Farmers despite challenging year

Agricultural supply business Mole Valley Farmers (MVF) recorded a £761,000 rise in pre-tax profits to £1.6m for the year to 30 September 2020.

The farmer-owned co-op, which has more than 9,000 members, achieved the increase despite seeing turnover fall by 4% to £475m.

Graeme Cock, MVF chairman, put the profit rise down to “very effective cost control” during a trading year blighted by Covid-19 and challenging weather.

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The factors caused low fuel prices as demand slumped during Covid-19 restrictions and two periods where fertiliser sales dropped in difficult weather.

The first drop occurred in the autumn of 2019, when bad weather struck during the crucial winter crop-drilling period, halting fieldwork and limiting establishment.

A second low came after a warm, sunny spring in 2020 extended into a prolonged dry spell and grass growth fell. The lack of grass also dented demand for silage packaging, as the spring progressed.

While livestock numbers were down, including the lowest lamb crop for 20 years, bedding sales were up 25% at MVF, as livestock was housed early in the poor winter conditions.

Overall, the combined challenges took their toll on the group’s agricultural activities, with revenue down to £225.7m, a fall of 8.6% compared with 2019.

In contrast, retail revenue rose by £4.5m to £226.5m for the 12 months compared with 2019 levels.

MVF shops were classed as essential retail and permitted to stay open during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The pandemic caused a change in buying habits, with individuals making fewer shopping trips but buying more items in each visit, said Mr Cock.

This showed in the accounts as a 5% drop in transactions, which was offset by higher basket values of £48.74, up 6.6%.

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