A trading update from the Wynnstay Group, released ahead of its annual general meeting last week, reveals that feed and rural retailing activities are ahead of the previous year but arable sales are slowed by a high volume of overwintered seed and the small 2020 harvest.

“Trading in the first four months of the new financial year ending October 31st 2021 has been in line with management expectations,” says outgoing chairman Jim McCarthy. “Farmer sentiment has continued to improve, buoyed by higher farmgate prices and greater clarity over the future direction of UK farming, following the Trade Agreement with the European Union and the passage into law of the Agriculture Bill.

“Feed sales and sales in the Specialist Agricultural Merchanting division in the period were ahead of last year but, as expected, arable sales were down on the same period. This principally reflected lower winter cereal seed volumes, as farmers utilised the large quantities of unsown seed still on farm after last year’s exceptionally poor winter planting season, and reduced grain trading volumes, after a historically low harvest.

“We are pleased to have expanded the Group’s presence in the east of the UK with the two complementary, bolt-on acquisitions – Armstrong Richardson Agri and Helm Fertilisers GB. They have added new customers and increased Wynnstay’s manufacturing capacity in blended fertiliser.”

“As an essential service provider, we continue to maintain full operations, and I would like to thank all colleagues for their hard work as we provide our full support to customers. With the vaccine programme rolling out, we look forward to a return to more normal trading conditions.

“The last two months of the first half are important trading months in the seasonal calendar, and we believe that Wynnstay remains well-positioned.”

• Mr McCarthy steps down after eight years as Group chair. His replacement is former HSBC head of agriculture Steve Ellwood.