31 Jul 2009

Fertiliser co-op's comeback bid after 'most challenging year'

6:40 pm on 31 July 2009

The Ballance Agri-Nutrients fertiliser co-operative is aiming to rebuild its balance sheet after sacrificing its profit margin last year in order to smooth out fertiliser prices for farmers.

The company has reported a 61% drop to about $30 million in its trading profit for the past year, which it calls the most challenging year it has ever experienced.

Huge hikes in international fertiliser prices were followed by rapid falls; and Ballance's decision to write down the value of its inventory to reflect the lower prices left it with an after-tax loss of more than $3 million.

On average, each tonne of Ballance product sold cost New Zealand farmers almost $700 this year, compared with about $400 in Ballance's previous financial year.

Chief executive Larry Bilodeau says it sold some products below cost to shield farmers from the worst of the price volatility. That cost the company $76 million.

As well, Ballance's fertiliser sales dropped by 28% on the previous year.

The other big fertiliser co-operative, Ravensdown, has reported a similar drop in sales and trading profit.