A Fuel And His Money

Are almost one-in-three ag retailers afraid to make money? Based upon the data in the latest CropLife® 100 survey, it seems like this is the case — particularly when it comes to addressing higher fuel prices.

As everyone associated with the ag retail business is aware, two of the biggest challenges facing the industry today are tighter margins on crop protection products and higher fuel costs. Both issues ranked in the top concerns for retailers polled in our annual Crop­Life 100 survey

And while market dynamics may prevent retailers from recouping crop protection sales, fuel prices should be another matter.

Or so you would think. In the 2005 CropLife 100 survey, I was somewhat surprised to find that although many retailers were charging grower-customers more to recover their fuel costs, 24% were not. Of course, given that higher fuel prices were then a relatively recent event, I thought some of these reluctant retailers were simply adjusting more slowly to the market and that the 2006 percentages would reflect this.

I was wrong. In the 2006 survey, while 99% of retailers said higher fuel prices were having a negative affect on their bottom lines, the percentage not charging more to recoup these losses increased to 31%. Even worse, approximately half of this “no recovery” group said they weren’t exploring alternative energy sources such as the use of bio­fuels either. For these retailers, the fear of losing grower-customers/market share is apparently greater than the reality of losing money. Take it from me, this is a bad path to be on and can’t be sustained. I’ve seen it before.

As I’ve pointed out in prior columns, I used to cover the soft drink trade 20 years ago. Back then, there were roughly 1,200 small soft drink bottlers scattered across the country, all fighting for sales and market share. In this climate, margins were tight as raw material costs steadily rose, but most bottlers were unwilling to raise their prices because they were afraid to lose any bit of precious market share to competitors that wouldn’t follow suit.

Year after year, I watched as these bottlers had good market share numbers, but kept losing money. The running joke in the industry became that if bottlers ran the post office, there would still be nickel stamps. Last time I checked, there were fewer than 500 bottlers left, with virtually all of the “good market share/losing money” ones forced to sell out to other companies.

While I’m confident that ag retailers can avoid following a similar path, I am still concerned. After two years of relative quiet, consolidation returned in 2006, with seven companies exiting the CropLife 100. Although I’m certain there were many factors that led these retailers to sell their businesses, losing money for a couple of years in a row was probably involved. Looking back to see how many of these retailers were recovering fuel costs in 2005, more than half (57%) weren’t. Now they’re gone. Is this just a coincidence?

Everyone is aware that fuel prices are high, and likely to stay that way. Given this, I’m sure most grower-customers would understand a slight increase in their custom application bills without bolting to the nearest competitor. For long-term survival, retailers charging more for this important cost of doing business only makes cents.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facility
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions With Yara International
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More