New alliance links 14 independent ag retailers
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.”