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Revolutionising Fertiliser Procurement

In a groundbreaking move set to reshape the agricultural landscape, Woldmarsh, Fram Farmers, and the AF Group declared an unprecedented alliance in March 2023. This monumental collaboration heralded a visionary endeavour aimed at streamlining purchases, leveraging combined volumes, and driving savings for their respective memberships. The birth of The Agri Procurement Alliance (APA) has been a culmination of tireless efforts over the past 10 months, resulting in a significant milestone: the "go-live" moment on January 5th, 2024, specifically for fertiliser procurement, excluding liquid variants.

This strategic partnership signifies a unified approach wherein the three entities will collectively negotiate preferential terms and conduct joint purchases whenever possible. Despite this huge shift, members can expect minimal disruption in their interactions with the fertiliser team. The familiar touchpoints stay intact – Ben is still the point of contact, orders come through Woldmarsh, and invoicing procedures remain unchanged. APA works as the conduit facilitating joined up negotiations with suppliers.

A notable alteration in the timeline revolves around the dispatch of annual fertiliser requirement forms, now scheduled for March. This adjustment aims to enable all three groups to engage with members, pooling tonnages for enhanced negotiation strength with suppliers. While recognising the early nature
of these inquiries in March, the alliance seeks insights from members regarding their anticipated needs, particularly focusing on nitrogen, nitrogen sulphur, and urea. Members' early input significantly fortifies the alliance's bargaining position, albeit it's a request for trust in this pioneering collaboration.

As the APA Fertiliser Director, with years of experience in the industry, the responsibility rests on me to guide Woldmarsh, Fram Farmers, and The AF Group's fertiliser managers in making well informed decisions. The past year has seen the cultivation of a robust, collaborative relationship among Ben
(Woldmarsh), Josh (AF), and India (Fram Farmers). Their commitment underscores the alliance's success, built on trust and collaboration.

The three CEOs share an unwavering commitment to the alliance's vision – to set an example of innovative success by challenging the fertiliser industry's conventional norms. Your support is pivotal as we embark on this transformative journey together.

Glyphosate was granted an extension to its current approval in Europe at the end of last year. The UK is still to grant an extension, but it is unlikely to be very different to Europe. Glyphosate 360 pricing since October has been stable at the £3.50/litre level with no strong indications that it will move from this pricing point during the coming spring season which will see a period of higher usage. 

New Agchem Products

Bayer have a new fungicide approved for the spring season under the name of iblon. This SDHi active has a broad spectrum of disease control and joins a market that has several well-established alternatives. Early indications point to more competitive pricing compared to the peak of last spring which was driven by the winter 2022 energy market. 

Volume planning will be more difficult this season as the crops sown are showing many different yield potentials which will mean inputs need to be carefully matched. 

Parallels re-approved

Sometime this year there will be new registrations for parallel imported ag chem. They were removed from sale at the end of June 2023, but the decision has now been reversed and there will be a mechanism for the re-approval of products that are identical to UK registrations to come into the UK again. Importers are unlikely to bring in such an extensive offering as before and will only target the higher usage volumes such as Win g P, Terpal, and Signum.  These registrations are unlikely to be available in time for this spring.

Soil Sampling

As many of you will now be aware of the SFI grants available, part of this is the SAM1 action, which is to “Assess soil, produce a soil management plan and test soil organic matter” yielding a payment of £6ha per year of the agreement and £97 per SFI agreement.

Of course, soil sampling is a vital tool in your ammo when making fertiliser decisions and using this input to the best of its ability to benefit your crops and soil health. The advice is soil sampling should be carried out every 3-5 years. Sampling for liming is paramount to ensure crops can access the correct nutrients at the right time, unfortunately, this is something that can often get overlooked.

We have several agreements with different suppliers to facilitate soil sampling, such as SOYL, NRM & Assured Agronomy Ltd, at a discounted rate to Woldmarsh members when

Spring Broadacre Crops

The availability of spring seed is extremely limited. Many suppliers are all ‘sold out subject to outturn’. This is due to many factors that have come together to result in the difficult position the industry finds itself in today. 

Looking back, Autumn 2022 was an open sowing season which presented good future prices resulting in an increased winter crop area and a reduced spring area available for seed production.

Fast-forward to Spring 2023 and it was by all counts a difficult growing season. This resulted in lower yields and poorer germination standards further reducing the tonnage of available seed to sell.

Autumn 2023 was a predictably difficult season, leading to an unprecedented demand for spring seed. Suppliers were understandably nervous about overselling their availability book and went ‘sold out’ very early. 

All cereal seed is virtually sold out for the season, there could be the option to purchase imported cereal seed. Spring beans and peas are virtually sold out. Maize, linseed and OSR are still available options for this spring. 

Sustainable Farming - Incentive Seeds

The interest in SFI actions that require seed inputs has increased following an exceedingly difficult autumn for establishing OSR and cereals. Legume fallows and winter bird food options are under consideration on a greater
number of farms. There is a finite limit to the availability of small seeds that are used to make up the mixtures for these actions.

Most of this seed is grown abroad in suitable climates and imported into the UK but has not been
grown in enough quantity to satisfy the new demand from UK farmers. If you are entering into SFI agreements,
please order seed as soon as possible.

Autumn's Aftermath

There's no denying that autumn 2023’s difficult conditions will have a knock-on effect on the availability of seed for autumn 2024 sowing. This includes both wheat and barley and it particularly affects the new varieties that were added to the recommended list in November. If any of the new varieties including LG Beowulf, Bamford, Blackstone and SY Cheer are of interest for next season, seed needs booking now.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales rose from 104,435 in 2021 to 130,389 in 2022, an increase of just under 25%.

Having recently been a victim of car crime, Phae Bryant talks about the importance of vehicle safety awareness and how insurers can work to offer discounted premiums on certain agricultural vehicles when they are fitted with approved, additional tracking and security devices...

A car purchase is a relatively expensive investment, and we make some assumptions as to the factory-fitted security measures and how they will protect the vehicle from thieves. However, despite these in-built measures, sadly thieves seem to always be one step ahead.

Having recently been a victim of car crime, I confess I was naïve as to just how easy it is to steal keyless cars, which are particularly vulnerable. Figures I have seen online suggest that the latest data reveals that now 93% of thefts are carried out without the keys. The vehicle stolen in my case was a Toyota RAV4 Petrol Hybrid and the increase in sales of these lower-emission vehicles is reflected in the numbers stolen. However, any keyless car is susceptible to theft by two particular methods.

Relay Theft

Relay theft is a technique used by thieves to steal cars with keyless entry systems. It involves using a device to amplify the signal from a key fob inside a home or when you have it in your bag or pocket, to a second device held near the car. This tricks the car into thinking that the key is nearby, allowing the thief to unlock and start the car. The whole process can take as little as a few seconds, making it a very quick and efficient way to steal a car. 

Sometimes the perpetrators will wait for you to walk away to take your vehicle, others follow you home and return later to take the vehicle from your property. To protect your keyless car from relay theft, there are a few steps you can take. 

One relatively cheap option is to use a Faraday pouch or box to store your key fob when you're not using it. This will block the signal and prevent it from being amplified by a thief. You could also use a good old-fashioned steering wheel lock or other physical security device to make your car more difficult to steal.

CAN Injection Theft

Another method used to steal a keyless car is via what's known as a CAN Injection, where the vehicle's CAN (or Controller Area Network) is tricked into thinking that a key is present by bridging some of the wiring loom connections. 

This can be done in a matter of minutes and the thieves gain access to the computers that control the car's engine through the headlight or under the wheel arch. The engine control unit stores a copy of the wireless key code, and thieves can clone this to a blank key fob to use to start the car. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from car theft is to remain vigilant and take extra steps to secure your vehicle.

We have personally added another immobiliser that prevents a thief from driving away if they bypass the CAN and have installed an app that provides vehicle status updates in the event of it being tampered with. Some insurers will offer discounted premiums on certain agricultural vehicles if they are fitted with approved (not factory-fitted) tracking and security devices which is worth looking into.

With the right precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of relay or any other form of car theft, preventing a great deal of stress, cost, and inconvenience. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and I won’t be so complacent in the future!