Buying groups evolved in the 1960s and 70s when groups of farmers started clubbing together to try to gain economies of scale when buying their farm inputs.

At that time, farming tended to be viewed by suppliers as ripe for picking. As an industry, holdings tended to be fragmented and isolated, with price comparisons confined to the markets and pubs. The size of the groups and joining criteria varied, but the more successful ones proved effective at purchasing and gave their members a competitive advantage.

Over the years the number of farmers has declined through a natural process of mechanisation and improved productivity. This process has put pressure on some buying groups, which lacked the critical mass to pressure suppliers as members fell away.  This led to closures and amalgamation and a decline in the number of groups.

Southern Farmers, with 1,200 members, can lay claim to being the largest buying group in the South East of England, covering an area that stretches from Hampshire in the west over to the tip of East Kent.

With a turnover in excess of £58 million, it remains well placed to leverage the best possible deals for members. Fees are modest and membership gives members access to a complete back office.

The purchasing team is very knowledgeable and can prove helpful when a member is looking to make a purchase in an area with which they are not familiar. The team’s technical knowledge, particularly regarding building products, aggregates and veterinary products, is impressive.

Southern Farmers is a broad church, and members’ turnovers range from a few thousand pounds to several million per annum. If the idea of a low cost, admin backup for your business appeals, do get in touch.

This feature looks to address some of the most common questions raised when both suppliers and potential members approach the group. Being an approved supplier gives companies access to a large customer base and to potential customers who might not have heard of them.

For potential members, we have outlined the basic cost structure of membership and the areas in which the group can be of help. Once an approach is made, the team will be only too happy to answer any queries.

Read the full feature