Interview with Max Winkler by Mike Beckett published within Village Link Magazine. See full transcript below:
OMEX is a family business started by Max Winkler’s father in 1976. Based near Bardney, the business has grown as a UK company and expanded globally. Building the business on helping farmers, horticulturists, amenity centres, nurseries and garden centres to improve plant life through fertilisers, OMEX has become a very successful company. Max explained: “The business started by supplying suspension fertilisers to farmers growing potatoes and sugar beet on the east coast of Lincolnshire and East Anglia. We expanded into foliar fertilisers and began exporting to Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. Expansion continues and we now have manufacturing sites in Winnipeg, Canada and Fresno, California. We also have an environmental business that supplies products to the anaerobic digester, wastewater treatment and de-icing market. We have peak times in the UK that basically follow the farmers’ peak months in the spring and autumn sowing periods. Our suspension products are supplies through a team of 30 contractors although there are some farmers who self-apply. Most of our raw materials are imported.”
So, I asked Max what his thoughts were about UK farming in 2017 and how he saw the industry after Brexit and were there many concerns that he felt would affect the business? “From a foreign exchange viewpoint, we saw the pound weaken when the vote to leave was made and that impacted on our margin. I would expect there to be further volatility in exchange rates throughout the BREXIT process, so we need to keep an eye on the expected changes in currency rates. Perhaps the main concern with Brexit is the support that farmers will get once we have left. The UK Government has promised support until 2020 but following that year it is not clear what the policy will be. Generally, farmers would like to be self-sufficient and not rely on a subsidy, but that could only happen if the price for their crops and produce increases.”
OMEX, like most businesses, has a number of competitors who will also face the same problems as we go through various changes that will have to be made post Brexit. But Max and I agreed that the overseas suppliers to UK businesses will also want to retain their business in Britain and keep their markets intact. “We want farmers to be successful, and to help them maintain the quality and crop yields that are attainable. So we shall continue with research into new products and endeavor to maintain access to new technologies to keep British farmers competitive in a global market,” said Max. “If the farmers can keep a strong business, diversify where possible to produce good incomes and focus on what they can control it should put them in a more robust position heading into BREXIT. From an environmental perspective, farmers are excellent custodians of the land. Apart from the actual crops that are grown for business, they look after the hedges, fences, stonewalls, dykes and waterways which is part of the reason why they are paid a subsidy.”
As I talk to more and more agricultural businesses I am learning that even though we are facing an unknown period there is an air of optimism, a feeling that whatever challengers are ahead, UK farming will meet them and continue to move forward. We are good at producing high quality produce and at maintaining standards not always achieved by other countries. I am very grateful to Max Winkler for his time and input, and if you would like to know more of this business do look at their website: www.omex.co.uk or call them on 01526 396000.