Agri-services group Origin Enterprises has reported reduced Q1 revenues, reflecting a combination of a late harvest, lower oilseed rape plantings, over- yeared seed and inputs, and lower fertiliser prices.

The Group, which owns the Agrii agronomy services business, reports a 9% drop in UK and Ireland revenues to €181.9 million in the three months ended October 31st 2020, compared to the prior year’s €199.8m. Total agronomy and inputs sales, including the Continental Europe and Latin American operations, fell 10.2% to €270.2m while crop marketing activities were down 31.7% to €48.1m. Total Group revenues were 14.3% lower at €318.3m.

Underlying agronomy services and crop input volumes in Ireland and the UK fell 3.3% year-on-year. The delayed harvest contributed to a further fall in the UK oilseed rape area, which Origin estimates is 12.2% down to 0.3 million hectares for harvest 2021. At the same time, Q1 input volumes suffered from a carryover of stock on-farm from autumn 2019 when winter plantings dropped 40% due to prolonged wet weather.

While winter wheat plantings in autumn 2020 are ahead of the previous year, they are not as advanced as the same stage of autumn 2018. Origin expects a UK winter wheat area of 1.8m hectares for harvest 2021, with 2.5m hectares of total winter crops and 4.4m hectares of winter and spring crops for 2021. This is 10.7% higher than for 2019/20 as much of the ground fallowed last year returns to production.

Origin’s Business-to-Business Agri-Inputs division had a satisfactory Q1, with wholesaled fertiliser and feed materials volumes in line with those in the same quarter a year before. Amenity horticulture had continued to recover in the period as COVID-19 restrictions eased, winning back some of the volume lost in the earlier shutdown.

“With the normalisation of crop plantings following an extremely challenging weather year in full year 20, the Group expects improved agronomy services and crop input volumes and a return to operating profit growth in FY21,” notes a company statement. “Weaker emerging market currencies, the continued possibility of Brexit without a trade deal on December 31st 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still represent challenges for the Group in FY21.”