Farm co-ops in £100m merger

SUFFOLK-based farmers' co-operative Framlingham Farmers has merged with fellow farmer-owned business Atlas Agriculture, creating a single operation with an annual turnover of more than £100million pounds.

SUFFOLK-based farmers' co-operative Framlingham Farmers has merged with fellow farmer-owned business Atlas Agriculture, creating a single operation with an annual turnover of more than £100million pounds.

The creation from today of the enlarged business, which is to be known as AtlasFram Group, follows lengthy talks between the two bodies, which have been working closely together since 1999 as members of the Saturn Agriculture purchasing organisation.

AtlasFram will continue to be based in Framlingham, with staff transferring from the former Atlas head office at Dullingham, near Newmarket. No jobs have been cut.

Robert Rous, chairman of Fram Farmers, will oversee a new board of 11 directors, including six from Fram Farmers and four from Atlas.

The chief executive of AtlasFram will be Ian Watson, who previously held the same role at Atlas Agriculture, with Roger Adshead, the chief executive of Fram Farmers, having retired on the eve of the merger after a total of 35 years with the organisation.

Fram Farmers, which was established in 1960, has 750 members farming more than 300,000 acres of land across East Anglia, the South East, North West and South West of England. It purchases around £70million-worth of agricultural inputs on members' behalf each year and also markets some 180,000 tonnes of members' grain annually.

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Atlas Agriculture has around 270 members farming about 270,000 acres in the East of England. It was formed in 2004 through the merger of Cambridge Farmers and West Essex Farmers, both of which also had 40-year track records in the agricultural supply industry and were also among the founder members of Saturn in 1999.

Mr Adshead, joined Fram Farmers in 1973 in the role of development officer, charged with responsibility to seek out new opportunities for members. One of his first tasks was to investigate oilseed rape, then regarded as a new crop but now grown by most arable farms in East Anglia.

Having taken the role with the intention of returning to his native Gloucestershire after a couple of years, his success led to him staying on with the organisation and eventually become chief executive in 1994. In 2006, he was awarded an MBE for services to agriculture.

Mr Adshead said: “Currently, great excitement and optimism surrounds the agricultural industry and there is now more interest in UK farmer-owned businesses than ever before, with most farmers recognising the need to work collectively and effectively, and the benefits of doing so.

“The ethos which drove Framlingham Farmers forward in the early years is, I believe, even more relevant today than at any time in the company's history. Members are looking for good prices, great service, expert advice and a friendly voice at the end of the 'phone when they call, and that's what we provide.

“With farming enjoying much-improved fortunes I would love to be involved for another 10 years, but 35 years is a good innings and the launch of the AtlasFram Group represents a natural break. It's a good time to hand over the reins of this fascinating business to my successor, Ian Watson.”

Of his retirement plans, Mr Adshead added: “Achieving a successful merger between Atlas Agriculture and Framlingham Farmers has been my priority during the last year, so I've not had time to think of anything else.

“I will certainly take time off before considering what comes next, but want to stay involved in this fascinating industry, so you probably haven't seen the last of me yet!”

Robert Rous said: “Roger's career with Framlingham Farmers has encompassed many milestones in the agricultural industry and he has been an inspiration to members and staff who have benefited from his tireless enthusiasm over the years.

“With a turnover of more than £100 million and over 1,000 members farming in excess of 600,000 acres throughout East Anglia, the South East, Midlands, South West and North West, the AtlasFram Group represents an exciting new era. Without Roger's efforts and determination we would not be where we are today.”