Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nobody expected Univar's celebration

  • Print

The same day global grain giant Glencore Xstrata announced it had regulatory approval to transfer 210 former Viterra farm retail outlets to Agrium, making that company the largest farm retailer in Canada, a smaller, but perhaps more significant celebration was taking place in Winnipeg.

On Sept. 5, Univar, a global giant in its own right, was celebrating 55 years in business for its agricultural division, which supplies products such as herbicides and supply-chain services to independent retailers across Western Canada.

Why a 55-year celebration? Because five years ago, when the division could have celebrated its 50th anniversary, no one felt much like celebrating.

Univar, which first formed as Van Waters and Rogers in British Columbia in 1958, is no stranger to mergers itself. But it was its customer base that seemed vulnerable in the rash of consolidations sweeping through the industry in recent decades.

Instead, it was Viterra that didn't survive, or at least its retail arm.

Formed as a publicly traded company through three mergers of four former Prairie grain co-operatives, Viterra was swallowed by Swiss commodities trader Glencore shortly after wheat and barley was transferred to the open market in 2012. Glencore just wanted the grain-handling side of the business. The grain-processing and farm-retailing operations were carved off and sold.

Now, 17 of its retail outlets are finding their way back to local co-operatives through a transfer deal with Federated Co-operatives Ltd. Under the deal, FCL is buying the sites from Viterra, and will transfer those sites' ownership and operations to local retail co-ops that have already agreed to accept the facilities. FCL's 235 retail co-op owners already operate 140 retail centres in the West through the co-operative retailing system (CRS).

Meanwhile, Univar -- the company that thought its sun in the agricultural field was setting --is experiencing its second year of unprecedented growth.

"With all the consolidation in the industry, naysayers said the independents wouldn't survive," said Rick Pierson, vice-president of Univar's agricultural division. "We've seen two consecutive years of record growth. Independent retail sales are stronger than ever."

Pierson estimates the independent dealers it serves have parlayed their local connections into a market share of nearly 45 per cent. "I think part of that is growers like to shop local and the independent dealer lives in the town, he spends money in the town, his kids go to school there and he raises his family there," he said. "It's a local thing. I think that's a big part of it."

It seems there is still an opportunity for the smallest businesses to thrive by capitalizing on how well they know their customers and by tapping into supply-chain networks that maintain their competitiveness.


Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 204-792-4382 or by email: laura@fbcpublishing.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 B13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google