Despite uncertainty around Covid and regulatory compliance issues, Ruralco has shown it is more resilient than ever, recording positive financial results for its 2021 financial year and by hitting a significant shareholder base milestone.
Coinciding with the recent 58th Annual General Meeting, Ruralco has attracted its 4000th shareholder. This is fantastic milestone for the co-operative which was started by a small group of like-minded farmers looking for competitive pricing for their businesses and a sustainable future for tomorrow – and these same values still hold true today.
“We are pleased to have successfully come through this year and to have also continued to grow our shareholder base. There is a level of pride and accomplishment that we have been able to do this in some difficult times,” said Ruralco Chair, Jessie Chan.
Group CEO, Rob Sharkie agreed and said the cooperative’s differentiation is always its people – its staff, members, suppliers, their families and the farming community. “We recognise we are all in this together and we are one team. We are bold and dare to always do better, we are honest and accountable, and we always go the extra mile. We have worked hard to put measures and plans in place for our members in these difficult times. This is who we are and links back to our values of being progressive, transparent, and driven by integrity.”
The 2021 financial year was one of disruption, but Jessie said Ruralco is more resilient than ever thanks to strong relationships between its businesses, suppliers (both card and retail), its members, staff and board. “It is a resilient eco-system of businesses which has served the company well this year and it relies on all contributors respecting and connecting strongly with each other. We all belong to this eco-system, and the key to its success is that we can all speak directly to those that we are doing business with. There are not too many layers to the business which allow us to achieve our goals and objectives effectively and efficiently – we all roll our sleeves up and there are no passengers.”
“Covid and regulatory compliance issues have continued to create challenges for Ruralco and our wider farming community, but 2021 has also been one of the best years for commodity prices for arable and dairy, with market prices also strong for lamb and beef.” said Jessie.
“These issues may still be with us, but they are not holding us back – we have a proven track record of agility and knowledge to keep us moving forward. Adversity does not constrain us in doing business and these challenges have not deterred Ruralco from forging ahead with its planned direction and alignment of its business.”
Ruralco continued to grow its Group Turnover, recording $245.3 million compared to $241.3 million last year. Gross Profit slight increased to $10.6 million compared to $10.3 million in the previous year, and EBITDA remained constant at $1.2 million. Group Equity at the end of the 2021 financial year was $16.9 million, up from last year’s $16.7 million.
For the fourth time in a row Ruralco will pay its shareholders a bonus rebate thanks to revenue growth and careful management of expenses.
During the last financial year Ruralco increased its shareholders by 2.4%, with account numbers growing by 6% and card suppliers growing by 7.8%. It has stayed true to its course of increasing market share while also focusing on efficiencies within the business
Board Director, Gabrielle Thompson, retired after nine years of service. While she will no longer be actively involved on the Ruralco Board, Gabrielle will continue with her roles on the Boards of Silver Fern Farms and Lincoln University. She was farewelled at the recent AGM and thanked for her dedicated contribution to the Board and her eagerness to constantly look for new and innovative ways to influence direction and success for the co-op. Gabrielle was the first woman elected to the co-op board, which proved to be a milestone for Ruralco and paved the way for greater diversity over recent years.
All Directors are on a three year rotation, and this year Kate Acland indicated she would seek re-election. It is an exciting time to join Ruralco’s highly professional and experienced Board of Directors. As a result, two very strong nominations were received – Rhea Booker, a Mid Canterbury based chartered accountant who farms in an equity partnerships of a small dry stock farm and calf rearing operation, and Andrew Barlass, a Mid Cantebury farmer and independent director.
Kate Acland and Andrew Barlass were successfully elected to the Board. Both were delighted with the result, saying shareholders had great candidates to choose from and they were both honoured to have been voted in.
Kate, who owns and operates Mt Somers Station with her husband David, and currently sits on the Board of WRONZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, is looking forward to continuing the journey on the Board and seeing projects through to fruition.
New Director, Andrew Barlass will bring with him a passion for co-operatives and his extensive governance experience, which includes current director roles with Electricity Ashburton Limited, Ashburton Contracting Limited, Christchurch International Airport Limited and Kowhai Farmlands Limited. He also currently oversees management of two family-owned dairy farms each milking 700 cows, raising all young stock and providing on farm wintering. They also finish approximately 170 dairy beef cross heifers.
Andrew said he and his family have a long association with Ruralco and he is a strong believer in the co-operative model. He is keen to bring his skills and knowledge to the table to add to the discussion and future of Ruralco.
Looking ahead, Ruralco will keep working towards its 2035 Vision. “This long-term strategy is a guiding beacon for the co-operative and is providing us with a road map to get there. It will be dependent on Ruralco continuing on its course of achieving a sustainable profit level which allows it to both sustain and grow the business, while continuing to deliver value to its shareholders,” said Jessie.
The strategy has been designed to ensure the business is mentally prepared to achieve the capital requirement to reinvest for the future of Ruralco and its future shareholders, and remains an ongoing focus for the Board of Directors.