Agrifirm Plant had an excellent year in which it once again acquired new customers in the Cooperative's key product groups. This further reinforces Agrifirm Plant's position. The company achieved conspicuous growth in the crop protection product segment. The late start of the growing season and the exceptional weather conditions (for example, major precipitation volumes in short periods of time) made for a challenging year. Agrifirm Plant last year completely phased out its Plant operations in Germany because of their small scale and low returns. In terms of the sale of products, Agrifirm Plant managed to realise good prices in various markets for its customers. The pool system for the sale of arable farming products provides room for closing transactions at the right time and consequently is bearing fruit for growers. The cereals harvest itself was disappointing in terms of volume; the fundamental reason for this was the declining cereal acreage in favour of beets and onions, combined with an extremely wet cereal harvesting period.
At the end of November 2016, Agrifirm Plant signed a declaration of intent for a partnership with the Chinese Beidahuang Blacksoil Potato Industry (BBPI). BBPI is part of the Beidahuang Group in the province Heilongjiang, one of the largest agricultural farms in China. As such Agrifirm Plant has taken initial steps in marketing its high-quality crop improvement consulting services internationally. In the Netherlands, further efforts were made to expand precision agriculture-related services. In the fall, Agrifirm together with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe signed the 'Green Deal Soy in the Netherlands' with the ambition of cultivating a significant area of soy within a few years.
Agrifirm Feed observed at the beginning of the year in the pig farming sector a great deal of pressure on accounts receivables and the effects of very low price competition. This resulted in a loss of customers. The adjustments in the plant in Veghel put some pressure on service levels, but the plant is well on its way to supplying top quality pig feed. The expectation is that this will have a positive effect on the relationship with existing customers and will result in growth at new customers. The investment in Veghel will be completed in July 2017. In recent years, the dairy herd grew significantly following the elimination of the milk quota. Agrifirm Feed profited from this because of higher sales volumes. In 2016, the growth of the herd impacted the price of milk and resulted in additional environmental measures. Dairy farmers were confronted with significantly declining milk prices. For 2017, Agrifirm Feed is taking a decrease in the dairy herd throughout the year into account. Agrifirm Feed expanded its market share in the goat farming segment thus further reinforcing its leadership in this fast-growing segment.
In August 2015, Agrifirm Feed introduced the net phosphor feed value system (nP system) together with NP feeds to encourage dairy farmers to become acquainted with this safe method of lowering the P content in rations. DairyStart®, the young livestock concept introduced in March 2016, which enables dairy farmers to reduce the calving age in four phases from an average of 26 months to 22 months, makes a positive contribution to increasing the phosphate margin and provides additional liquidity for the farmer. In 2017, Agrifirm Feed will further intensify its custom consulting services for dairy and beef cattle farmers.
In the poultry farming sector a great deal of attention was devoted to switching over to a livestock farming system that is better appreciated by consumers. Agrifirm Feed proactively anticipated this development by introducing the Slowfeed feed programme so that farmers can comply with the demand for new concepts, such as Goed Nest Kip. Agrifirm and its members were front runners in this development. The result was that fewer animals were deployed, resulting in a reduced feed sales volume. The acquisition of new customers enabled the company to limit the reduction in sales volume.