New al­liance links 14 in­de­pen­dent ag re­tail­ers

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY+REGION - ALEX MACPHER­SON amacpher­son@post­ twit­­sona

SASKA­TOON A group of 14 in­de­pen­dent agri­cul­tural re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing seven based in Saskatchewan, are join­ing forces to pro­tect their busi­nesses in the face of in­creased mar­ket con­sol­i­da­tion.

Pat­terned on a sim­i­lar agree­ment among Aus­tralian firms that have a com­bined mar­ket share of $1.2 bil­lion, AgLink Canada is ex­pected to keep in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers com­pet­i­tive by cre­at­ing a sin­gle path­way to sup­pli­ers, its chair­man said.

“Farm­ers tend to be at­tracted to in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers not for the price but in fact for the pas­sion and the ser­vice that they of­fer,” said Dennis Be­lani, whose Big­gar­based Rack Pe­tro­leum Ltd. is part of the group.

“The farmer says, ‘I get to go deal with the lo­cal in­de­pen­dent re­tailer in my town be­cause he signs the cheques just like the farmer does.’ There’s a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween farm­ers … and in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers.”

Be­lani said that while con­glom­er­ates like Agrium Inc.’s Crop Pro­duc­tion Ser­vices and Richard­son In­ter­na­tional Ltd.’s Pioneer have been buy­ing up in­de­pen­dents, there are still be­tween 140 and 180 sell­ing seeds, fer­til­izer, pes­ti­cides and other prod­ucts on the Prairies.

The hope is that AgLink Canada will at­tract many of them, thereby re­duc­ing the cost to man­u­fac­tur­ers like Bayer AG, Mon­santo Co. and Syn­genta AG — which are them­selves con­sol­i­dat­ing — of sup­ply­ing the prod­ucts sold across the prov­ince.

The new group will be led by Bill Dow­dle, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of AgLink Aus­tralia, who ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease has 40 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the business and agreed to move to Canada to help es­tab­lish the al­liance.

Be­lani, who also runs a small farm near Lizard Lake, said the al­liance is the best way to adapt to the chang­ing agri­cul­ture sup­ply business while pre­serv­ing the ap­peal of in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers.

“We are very con­fi­dent that it will work, and the rea­son why we’re con­fi­dent it’ll work is the model in Aus­tralia … has been suc­cess­ful.”

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