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Harbro chief demands price rises for farmers to ensure food security

Harbro enjoyed a boost in turnover and pre-tax profits last year.
Harbro enjoyed a boost in turnover and pre-tax profits last year.

The chief of leading Scottish animal feed firm Harbro says farmers need to get paid more to ensure the viability of the UK farming sector.

Harbro‘s managing director, Chris Baxter, made the comments after revealing the company’s accounts for last year.

He said the current farmgate prices being received by farmers – in particular those in the pig sector – were unsustainable.

“Hopefully the country’s supermarkets will respond with increased prices for the supply chain to ensure our farmers are there for the future and we have a viable UK farming sector,” added Chris.

“Otherwise we are at risk of losing more highly skilled farmers and risk the country’s food security.”

The latest accounts for Turriff-headquartered Harbro show a 51% increase in pre-tax profits to £4.528 million in the year to June 30, 2021. This is up from a pre-tax profit of £2.989m the year before.

Turnover at the company, which also runs 21 country stores across Scotland, was up 9% to £125.456m, from £115.193m previously.

Harbro’s Birkhill mill in Lanarkshire.

The company’s chief financial officer, Ross Baxter, said Harbro implemented very tight cost controls during the financial year to ensure that the company was well prepared to deal with the uncertainties of Covid.

He said: “It was pleasing to see a robust performance across a number of our revenue streams through this period.

“All this, coupled with a focus on working capital and reducing capital expenditure, contributed to a good financial performance for us in the year.”

Chris said the increased revenue during the year was down to growth across all sectors, however the business had particularly benefitted from the increase in dog ownership during the pandemic and the ability to sell plants and garden products while garden centres were shut.

He said the 2021/22 financial year had been more challenging, due mainly to volatility.

Chris added: “Supply issues have been greater but we are happy with the financials; we won’t have a drop in turnover, but we will have a drop in profits.”

Harbro’s Lochgilphead store in Argyll.

He said the company relocated its country store in Lochgilphead, Argyll, in 2021 and it had invested in automation processes at some of its manufacturing sites to improve efficiency – something that will continue throughout this year and next.

Other company developments include investment in the NutriONics livestock rationing programme, work integrating the methane-reducing feed additive Rumitech into supermarket supply chains, and the creation of a soya-free version of Harbro’s Maxammon grain treatment.

Chris said: “The whole Harbro team has worked extremely hard to adapt to challenges that arose due to the pandemic.

“The availability of goods from abroad became very tight and we have had to deal with volatile markets and increased lead times.”

He added: “We thank all our valued staff for everything they do to ensure the success of the business, and we would also like to thank our customers for their continued support.”

Animal feed firm Harbro enjoys profits boost despite Covid challenges

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