Ag players keen to join Elders/AIRR farm service networks

by | Nov 23, 2020

Another wave of farm services businesses are expected to join the Elders rural group ranks in the wake of its expansion push into wholesale farm supplies last year, Elders Managing Director, Mark Allison said recently.

According to a recent Queensland Countrylife Report, the Australian Independent Rural Retailers Network (AIRR) ranks have grown from about 340 back when the farm equipment, produce and crop inputs merchandising group agreed to the $187 million Elders takeover in mid-2019. The group now includes eight warehouses and supplies wholesale products to about 370 AIRR member stores

AIRR also has plans for a new warehouse in Tasmania which could see more retailer members joining the Elders fold in the near future, according to the report.

Elders is also continuing to grow its branch network as some agents break away from the Nutrien Ag Solutions group, formed after last year’s $470 million Landmark-Ruralco merger. Elders boasts about 18 per cent of the total farm services market Australia-wide, well behind Nutrien with more than 40pc, according to the Queensland Countrylife Report.

Earlier this year, a Roy Morgan consumer research survey of about 1000 respondents found the Elders brand was the most trusted name in Australian agribusiness. Elders rated at least twice as strongly as other well-known rural brands including, Landmark, Wesfarmers, John Deere, CRT and Norco, according to the report.

Among recent recruits to the AIRR team has been South Australia’s YP Ag, a former CRT member, described by Mr Allison as the sort of “blue chip” rural merchandising business likely to trigger a new wave of recruits quitting the Nutrien camp.

“We have had about 12 new members coming across from CRT to sign up to the wholesale group this year and we can see good growth potential in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. We have not lost any AIRR members since the business became part of Elders.”

“AIRR has already exceeded our performance expectations with earnings before interest and tax of $21.9m and is highly likely to exceed year earnings we originally planned over a full year,” Mr Allison said in the report.

From Rockhampton to Dalby and Guyra, former rival operators are now trading as part of the Elders network after it spent a further $18m on business acquisitions in the financial year.

Mr Allison said that other potential AIRR members may actually find a better fit as part of the Elders’ agency and store network, or within its horticulture business, Ace Ohlsson.

During 2019-20 Elders added a further 417 staff to its payroll after buying new businesses or expanding its existing services, according to the Queensland Countrylife Report.

Mr Allison said as part of the company’s newest eight-point plant, it would pursue some “massive opportunities” to win more market share in new geographies and across all product and services areas. About six potential takeovers are understood to be currently under consideration.

“We have a pipeline of acquisition opportunities, some of which are corporate, but it comes down to talking about the right numbers, locations and being sure they are the right cultural fit for us,” he said.

The company has also recently launched a branch incentive program enabling store managers to share bonus reward payments with staff as specific sales benchmarks are achieved.

“We looked at our competition in the market, which is invariably private operators and we thought this platform would drive the right private reward mentality in our teams,” Mr Allison said in the report.