A farming co-op based in Suffolk is celebrating a “very successful” year, in spite of volatile markets and weather.

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Annual results announced today by AtlasFram Group, in Framlingham, show its financial year to June 30, 2012, was not thrown off course, and that members made increasing use of the co-operative.

The group, which purchases farm inputs and markets combinable crops on behalf of 1060 Members who farm more than 275,000 hectares throughout the UK, achieved a turnover of £169million, an increase of £17 million on the previous year. Purchasing turnover increased by 9.2%, while financial reserves rose to more than £2.5m, the highest in the group’s history, and the number of farm businesses applying for membership increased substantially.

Sales of crop protection product increased 17% to £28.9m, electricity by 14% to £6.7m and seed by 11% to £5.5m. AtlasFram’s Livestock Department also experienced strong growth, with turnover increasing by 18% and feed volume by 14% to a record 83,000 tonnes, with sales of animal health products rising by 10%. The Group’s Building Materials Department saw turnover increase to £4.34m, up by 6.2%, while sales of machinery increased by 3.2% to £9.6 million as the group’s fleet partnerships continue to go from strength to strength, with the rebate schemes with major manufacturers providing significant added benefits to members.

AtlasFram’s grain marketing department has thrived in the two years since the Group formed a strategic partnership with ADM Direct to enable it to maintain a unique identity while benefitting from ADM’s global resource.

Continuous global crop problems resulted in huge seasonal price volatility, but its exclusive grain pools provided members with protection against the instability which these extreme price movements present, while consistently achieving higher returns, the group said.

Due to the dependability of the group’s pools, the committed tonnage secured for the current growing season more than doubled to its highest level for 10 years with a predicted 41% increase on the previous year.

It was another highly-profitable year for Framtrade, AtlasFram’s wholly-owned non-Member trading business, which increased sales of domestic fuel to almost 1500 customers. The business also expanded its portfolio of energy contracts as AtlasFram Members and other farming groups continued to join the existing electricity schemes which it offers.

Announcing the results to AtlasFram Group Members at the Annual General Meeting in East Anglia, group chairman Serena Greenwell said: “This has been a very successful year for the AtlasFram Group, reflecting the fact that we are a true cooperative which operates entirely in the best interests of our farmer/landowner Members and in a transparent manner.

“Our unique area-based funding scheme means that unlike many competitors we do not make extra profit from members as input prices rise. Our structure also rewards those with a strong commitment to the Group, thereby maximising the profitability of their individual businesses.

“During the year, the marketing department cemented our partnership with ADM Direct, whose knowledge of global markets, world stocks, tonnages traded and market requirements have been of exceptional benefit to the management of the pools. This resulted in industry-leading performances. The April-June 2012 pools for feed and milling wheat, for example, achieved £166.05 per tonne and £182.05 per tonne respectively, £12.05 per tonne more than competitor pools, while oilseed rape achieved £375.38 per tonne plus individual quality bonuses, representing an additional £15.38 per tonne.”

Chief executive Richard Anscombe said: “Exceptional volatility in farm input and output prices highlight the value which Members receive from belonging to a highly-professional, financially-strong cooperative which operates entirely in their best interests, on a fixed-fee basis. The success of this approach is reflected by increasing commitment from existing members across all key product areas and in the number of new Members joining us. During the last 12 months, 53 farming businesses from East Anglia, The South East, South West, Midlands and North West became Members of AtlasFram, significantly higher than the average over past years.

“We remain committed to being the UK’s foremost farmer-owned purchasing and marketing cooperative, delivering the best service and information supported by the best value and advice to our Members. Our focus is on adding maximum value to their businesses and we continue to develop the AtlasFram Group to benefit them.

“During the year we invested significantly in our Membership information web site, which is already a hub for Member information, news and member-to-member cooperation. We also expanded out initiatives to work with the younger farmers within our Membership and throughout UK agriculture, while our support of the Independent Agronomy sector continues to strengthen. In November we launched ‘Tramline’, an innovative, exclusive joint initiative with the AICC to assist those wishing to become independent agronomists to make this career change.

“Going forward, we believe that during what is undoubtedly an increasingly challenging business environment for the agricultural sector, membership of the Atlas Fram Group will be increasingly attractive to forward-thinking farmers.”

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