For the past several years, I’ve used this column to highlight some of the early findings from the annual CropLife 100 survey of the nation’s top ag retailers. And I am doing so again this year!
Overall, it looks like 2022 was a very, very good year for the largest ag retailers in the country. Revenues will likely top the $40 billion mark for the first time ever, led by a big jump in fertilizer sales for virtually every member of the CropLife 100 that sells this particular input. The other categories should also record sales gains — except perhaps seed, which is trending flat in the early returns.
In the meantime, I thought I would share three key findings from this year’s survey that might surprise market watchers. So, enjoy!
1. Grower Consolidation Picks Up.
For many years, consolidation at the supplier and ag retail levels of the industry have been quite steady. However, in 2022, only one pair of ag retailers within the CropLife 100 consolidated (Ag Partners and First Cooperative Association to form AgState). But grower consolidation did see an uptick.
According to the survey, 41% of respondents saw more grower consolidation in their markets than during 2021, when the figure was 35%. Two percent said grower consolidation slowed down for their customers (vs. 5% in 2021). The remaining 57% said the level of grower consolidation for them remained constant from the year before (vs. 60% on the 2021 survey).
2. Carbon Credits in Ag Retail Still Questioned.
One of the hottest topics in agriculture the past two years has been the ongoing quest to improve sustainable ag practices among grower-customers. And much of this has focused on carbon credits. Based upon many national surveys, the percentage of growers actually embracing these efforts remain in the single digits, but most analysts expect this number to increase in the coming years.
But what role might ag retailers play in this cause? Thus far, CropLife 100 ag retailers aren’t convinced this will be a big growth opportunity for their businesses. According to the 2022 survey, only 40% of respondents predict ag retailers will have a big part to play in carbon credits. Fifty-three percent think the ag retail role in these programs will be “small.” The remaining 7% don’t foresee the industry playing any part in carbon credits.
3. Ecommerce Shrinks.
Another hot topic the past few years has been the growth of ecommerce. However, CropLife 100 ag retailers aren’t jumping onto this bandwagon in large numbers. In fact, the percentages are shrinking.
When asked if their companies offered ecommerce to customers during 2022, only 38% answered yes. The remaining 62% said their companies were not. On the 2021 survey, this percentage split was 45% yes/55% no. What’s causing this drop in ecommerce? Further research is needed, but perhaps the virtual environment in the COVID years is shifting back to more in-person transactions instead.
As for the rest of the information gleamed from the 2022 CropLife 100 survey, look for details in our December edition.