UK ag input demand picking up, after slow winter

UK arable farmers are speeding up input purchases, after a slow start to the year, Wynnstay Group said.

The UK grain trading-to-farm supply business, said trading activity over the four months to February 29 had been "subdued".

But arable input demand is on the uptick, the company said in a trading statement to be given at its annual meeting.

"Demand for arable products has gained momentum over recent weeks after a slow start and is up to the levels of the prior period, with Wynnstay also well placed for the anticipated spot trade," the group said

Trend toward spot purchases

Ed Hugo, at broker VSA Capital said the downbeat start to the year was "unsurprising".

"The UK market is currently seeing a trend away from forward purchases and towards spot purchases."

"This has especially been visible in fertilizer and we would therefore expect Wynnstay's fertilizer volumes in particular to pick up as a result in the coming months," Mr Hugo said.

Feed business under pressure

Wynnstay's grain trading business is enjoying strong volumes, even as prices remain low.

"Grain trading volumes have increased over the equivalent period last year although, as expected, margins remain under pressure."

Meanwhile, the feed business has come under pressure due to the unusual availability pasture over the winter.

"In the agricultural division, demand for dairy feed was reduced over the mild winter period however poultry, beef and sheep feed sales remain buoyant, in line with previous years," Wynnstay said.

Acquisition opportunities

Wynnstay shares took a tumble back in January, when the company warned its outlook for sales was becoming "more cautions".

Shares hit an 8-month low, as the company warned of low farm gate prices, which were eating into farmer income.

Phil Carroll, at Shore Capital, said on Tuesday that Wynnstay still boasted "a resilient model that leaves it well-placed to deliver growth over the medium-term as agricultural output prices return to more realistic levels".

Mr Caroll also suggested that some mergers and acquisitions activity could be on its way, saying that Wynnstay might "potentially capitalise on acquisition opportunities in the sector in the shorter-term".

Wynnstay shares were down 4.8% at 450p in afternoon deals in London.

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