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New era and boss for agri firm

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
New era and boss for agri firm

AGRICULTURAL supplier Carr’s Billington is embarking on a fresh chapter in its history.

It comes after Billington Group bought out Carr’s last year in a £44.5m deal and appointed a new managing director, Richard Quinn, to take the business forward.

He will oversee more than 700 employees, an annual turnover of £400m and 32 Country Stores, including in Annan.

Carr’s Billington is a supplier of animal feed, farm machinery, animal health products, seeds, chemicals, fuel and tools.

Richard says any change will be incremental, evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

He said: “It’s a diverse business with lots of different operating activities and it has huge opportunity for our colleagues and customers.

“There’s a huge amount of expertise within Carr’s Billington that we can utilise to help and support our customers to run their businesses better.

“We are really focused on our customers to make sure we have the right products when they need them, at the right price and of the right quality.”

Carr’s Billington had been run as a joint venture since 1998. There are no plans to drop the Carr’s name following the sale.

Richard is looking forward to visiting teams on the front line and meeting customers, recognising it has been a tough few years for farmers.

He said: “The sector faces lots of challenges. It has come out of covid facing high commodity prices and inflation – not just raw materials but input costs, fertiliser is more expensive. There has been some upside in processor prices, but this has significantly reduced in recent months.

“Some of these things have affected our margins because we’ve absorbed some of those rising costs and not just passed them on to our customers. We try to be competitive and make sure our prices are appropriate. It’s walking a tightrope.”

Looking ahead, he sees that the firm will have a pivotal role in helping farmers adapt to new subsidy arrangements post Brexit, with the Government phasing in the Environmental Land Management (ELM) regime to replace the subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy.

Richard added: “Subsidy change is having a significant impact. British farming has been subsidised for a long time but the behaviours that farmers need to demonstrate to access subsidies are changing.

“Clearly there is a focus on the environment and environmental stewardship, that’s the direction from government.

“We can help them by, for example, having environmentally-sustainable feed produced from sustainable sources.

“Farmers will adapt though, they always have done, and that’s why I’m optimistic about the future.”

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