February update

A Tale of Two Anniversaries

We’ve just completed the annual AF Membership renewal and it was reassuring that resignations were about 50% lower than in 2022. Reasons for resignation vary but most Members leave for practical reasons beyond our control. Of the 75 (out of 3,500) accounts that closed only 5 expressed any dissatisfaction with their cooperative. Our target is 100% Member satisfaction. We shouldn’t be complacent about the 2023 figures but it’s encouraging that Members remain loyal to the cooperative.   

However, we have a much bigger ambition than simply holding onto Members. Our aim this year is to increase Member uptake across all procurement categories and we are targeting a net growth of at least 100 significant new Members.  We’re not on a headlong charge to increase Membership but no organisation can stand still. It’s either forwards or backwards and with growth comes a mindset that is focussed on service, innovation and momentum.


Make the most of your AF membership

The move to fixed service charge levels and a broader range of membership categories has given you and other Members flexibility as well as an incentive to increase spending with the cooperative. The one Member comment I wish I could never hear again is “I didn’t know you did that”. Members who get the most from this cooperative are the ones who use us across all 14 principal procurement categories and we will be working much harder this year to communicate the vast range of products we procure in all input categories. We will also be introducing rewards to thank Members for their loyalty and reward those who use AF across all input categories. 


The not-for-profit extension of your business

When talking to current and new Members our key message is always the seemingly obvious statement that we’re a cooperative, a not-for-profit extension of your business, we’re not a supplier.  We make a margin of about 1.2% on turnover, a result that would see the CEO of any of our suppliers instantly removed.  

Our job is to scrutinise and challenge pricing and although we work collaboratively with suppliers there are tensions. We wouldn’t be doing our job properly if there weren’t. I was reassured when our new Chairman admitted to me that when he was COO at ForFarmers he “hated the cooperative” because we squeeze margins and bring the sweet sunlight of independence and transparency to the supply chain. But we’re not locked in a fruitless arm-wrestle; yes, we challenge pricing but we also act as single point of contact and invoice, we aggregate volumes and deliveries and we pay promptly and reliably. There are real advantages for suppliers but fundamentally we’re on the side of our Members.


Your loyalty is appreciated

Thank you for your loyalty to the AF cooperative.  I assure you we are never complacent and we are continually looking for ways to give you better value, better service and better insights.  We never take your loyalty for granted.


Mindful of the plight of farmers in Ukraine

I cannot let the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this month pass without comment.  When I visited farmers in Latvia and Lithuania last May, it was sobering to find that my hosts kept their bags packed and with them at all times, ready to leave at moment’s notice.  They have no doubt that if Ukraine falls, the Baltics will be next and they know only too well what life is like under Soviet rule. 

For those of us whose childhood was overshadowed by the threat of mutually assured destruction, the disintegration of the Soviet system heralded a chaotic but hope-filled era of freedom and integration. If you didn’t live through this time, it’s hard to comprehend the misery of the Soviet system or the optimism that erupted with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The idea that anyone would be mad or bad enough to try to recreate the Soviet empire is almost beyond comprehension. That is unless you understand the Russian capacity for nostalgia and suffering. It is these uniquely Russian qualities which Putin is using to justify the slaughter and exhaust the Western alliance. 

The prices of electricity, fertiliser and gas are stabilising as supply chains inevitably adjust. But the disruption we have experienced over the past 12 months will feel like nothing compared to devastation that will accompany the expansion of Putin’s barbaric authoritarianism if he is allowed to prevail.

Thank you again for generous donations to the Disasters and Emergency Committee last year. We will continue to maintain awareness and generate support for the farmers of Ukraine who, until twelve months ago, were living lives just like ours.


David Horton-Fawkes   AF CEO   01603 881 881

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