Scots throughput crash

9 April 1999

Formal launch for Farmtrack

FARMTRACK, a joint venture between livestock marketing co-op Wessex Quality Meat and family butchers CH Baker and Sons, of Honiton, Devon, has been formally launched after an 18-month development period.

Products include fresh meats (including organic), sausages, dry-cured bacon and "proper" hams and pasties supplied to customers like Rail Gourmet, Fortnum and Mason and caterers.

"We are developing steadily and do not intend to get into the mass production market," says the companys Ralph Human.

Nevertheless, there are expansion plans and Farmtrack is looking to move to new premises. Currently they are using 10 cattle, 30-40 lambs and 70 pigs a week, all fully traceable and supplied through WQM.

A MAFF grant has been obtained to help finance development of the brand name and it is hoped MLC may part-fund some promotional material. &#42

Rother profits

SOUTH-EASTERN buying group Rother Valley Farmers has reported a small increase in profits for the year ending Sept 30, 1998 which will be added to reserves.

The group, which has 500 members farming 51,000ha (126,000 acres) throughout Kent and Sussex, made a net profit of £16,000. This is despite a 10% fall in turnover to £7m mainly due to cheaper fertiliser and sprays, says general manager Helen Evans. It compares with a net loss of £1500 in 1997.

A 4% increase in trade volume and a fall in operating expenses to 93% of 1997 levels helped boost performance, she adds. &#42

Tenants special

FARMWEB has launched a new insurance initiative with the Tenant Farmers Association.

The deal, which aims to capture one-third of the market by 2004, aims to cut premiums by including tenant liability as standard. It contrasts with other policies which add – rather than include as standard – a figure for such buildings damage.

"Historically tenant farmers have all too often been discriminated against and have had to pay higher premiums than their owner-occupier counterparts," says TFA chief executive George Dunn. &#42

Scots throughput crash

THROUGHPUT at Scottish auction marts dropped by almost 30% on the year during 1998, the lowest for 22 years.

The total number of stock handled was down from 4.9m to 4.6m but the cash value fell from £492m to £348m.

The figures reflect the economic crisis which has hit Scottish agriculture in the past year. "As an integral part of the industry we have felt the knock-on effect of lower stock prices," said John Neil, president of the Scottish Institute of Auctioneers.

Losses are being reported and rates, water, and effluent treatment charges are being increased. Rumours abound about possible mergers.

Lanark-based Lawrie and Symington this week reported a trading loss of £261,000 for the past year compared with a profit of £140,000 in the previous 12 months. "It is all due to lower commission on reduced stock values, but we are also facing extra charges at every turn," said managing director, Hunter Murray. His rates bill has just gone up by £26,000 to £137,000.

There is talk of a merger between Lawrie and Symington and Caledonian Marts of Stirling. The possible sale of either Perth or Stirling centres owned by United Auctions has gone quiet. The firms latest figures showed half-year losses of £600,000.

Wallets Marts at Castle Douglas hope to break even but managing director, Robin Anderson, said increased rates and water charges would make life increasingly difficult and without any sign of a significant rise in stock prices.

Brian Pack, chief executive of the Aberdeenshire-based ANM Group, is appealing a rates bill of £400,000 for the Thainstone Centre at Inverurie. &#42

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