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Agricultural buying group achieves 15% jump in shareholder payouts

Jon Duffy, chief executive at AF Group. Picture: Denise Bradley

Jon Duffy, chief executive at AF Group. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant, Norfolk 2017

Shareholders at an East Anglian agricultural purchasing group received a £600,000 payout for the last financial year – an increase of 15% on the previous year.

The AF Group’s annual report and accounts also show turnover rose by 9% to £255m in the year to March 31 2018, while profit after tax more than doubled to £616,000, up from £230,000 in the previous 12 months.

The group, based at Honingham Thorpe, says this surplus will enable it to “further invest” in improving administrative and IT operations and staff training.

The results encompass the membership society Anglia Farmers and subsidiary companies AF Affinity, AF Biomass, AF Finance, and AF Logic.

AF Group chief executive Jon Duffy said it had been a “very good year” for the group and the society, but that “rapid” changes in the agricultural industry meant it would have to stay alert.

“This is an encouraging start to our five-year strategy, launched in September 2017, which sets ambitious targets on membership, the balance sheet, and financial returns to members,” he said.

“However, with the whole supply industry consolidating around us, we cannot stand still.

“The agricultural world is changing rapidly and some of the changes that we will see post-Brexit could be seismic.”

Mr Duffy said AF Group was practising the message he had preached to other agricultural businesses about getting costs “under control”, with products and services being streamlined and a restructure which saw permanent staff numbers drop from 134 to 120.

These changes, along with others in sponsorship, marketing and third-party support, had resulted in annual savings of £500,000, he said.

“We’re moving into a position where we can be confident of withstanding market volatility and agile enough to avoid issues as they arise – as well as provide all our members with real value for money.

“I know the changes and the outlook for the business has been well received, with members informing me they are filled with hope for the future of AF and proud to be a part of what we’re looking to achieve,” he said.

AF Group, the UK’s largest agricultural purchasing business, has more than 3,000 members in East Anglia representing more than one million hectares of land.

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