Growmark buys out Ont. ag input co-ops

Two of the three ag retail co-ops that made up the FS Partners chain in southwestern and central Ontario are selling their businesses to their third partner.

Inland Co-operative Inc. and Waterloo-Oxford Co-operative Inc., which together with regional co-operative Growmark operate 20 FS Partners branches, both announced Wednesday their members had voted to sell “substantially all”
of the two co-ops’ assets to Growmark, effective May 1.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

“Growmark’s investment in acquiring the assets of Waterloo-Oxford Co-op is a blessing in terms of what we needed in strong financial support. It gives us new stability and allows us to continue to do business for the customers in our trade territories,” Waterloo-Oxford Co-operative president Murray Schnarr said in a release.

Inland Co-operative president Lee Woods agreed in a separate release that the deal “will give our co-op customers a financially strong and stable owner to provide agricultural products and services into the future.”

Kitchener-based Growmark is a regional co-operative owned and controlled by co-ops in Ontario and the U.S., supplying and serving 22 agricultural co-ops, which in turn represent close to 35,500 members and 1,500 employees. Growmark posted US$6.7 billion in sales in 2008.

Waterloo-Oxford Co-operative, which joined FS Partners in November 2006, has over 1,400 members and serves farmers and other customers in Waterloo, Oxford and Hamilton-Wentworth counties at outlets in Elmira, Ayr, Norwich, Embro and Lynden. The outlets provide agronomy, feed, grain handling and consumers’ products including pet food, hardware and work clothing.

Inland Co-operative, owned by more than 5,600 members, provides agronomy, consumer livestock feed and petroleum products as well as grain marketing services at its locations at Drayton, Harmony, Grand Valley, Milverton, Mitchell, Monkton and Stratford.

The two co-ops’ locations will continue to operate under the name FS Partners after Growmark becomes sole owner. The two selling co-ops will then be dissolved and their members, if they fit Growmark’s membership criteria, will be eligible to become Growmark members.

“For our customers, it means they will be able to continue to do business with their local FS Partners branch as usual and see very little change in their day-to-day business dealings,” FS Partners general manager Jaye Atkins said. “This acquisition will allow us to stay competitive in the marketplace, tap into more resources, and increase efficiencies.”

The two co-ops said previously they had joined FS Partners “in order to withstand the pressures facing the agricultural industry today” and to “gain efficiencies in the day-to-day operations of the businesses in southwestern and central Ontario.”

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