Ag Retail Consolidation Ready To Ramp Back Up?

In case you missed the recent news, the 10 outlets that comprised Ritter Crop Services, No. 46 on the most recent CropLife 100 list of the nation’s top retailers, have been acquired by Crop Production Services (CPS), the No. 1 company on the list. The deal price wasn’t disclosed, but the transaction marks the exit of Ritter Agribusiness Holdings, Inc. from the ag retail marketplace.

According to the company, this divestiture will allow Ritter to focus on other growth initiatives such as grain, farmland, farm management and gin services. “E. Ritter & Co. has been in business for 126 years, and we’re constantly evaluating the direction of the company and the way we do business,” said Ritter Arnold, president of Ritter Agribusiness. “After much consideration, we have decided to exit the retail agribusinesses and expand our presence in other agribusiness sectors in the Mississippi River Delta.”

For me personally, this news is somewhat sad. In the past dozen years, I’ve had the chance to visit two of Ritter’s locations and I found the company’s blend of profitability and stewardship to be profoundly genuine. Furthermore, the individuals making this happen at both outlets were just as genuine in their desire to help out, not only grower-customers but ag editors such as myself.

Of course, this deal begs a larger question – Is industry consolidation getting ready to ramp back up in 2012? Since the crash of 2008, there have been relatively few ag retailer mergers compared with the large number that took place in 2006 and 2007, when times were booming for ag fortunes. Based upon the latest CropLife 100 numbers, 2011 marked a recovery for the market from these down times, and most everyone expects 2012 to bring more good news (and numbers).

So with ag retailer values at their highs right now, will more companies who’ve thought about refocusing their ag efforts be on the block? We’ll have to wait and see, but given the market conditions today, I would think the answer to this question is “yes.”

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