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Carr's business improves after mill closure and poor harvest

CARR'S Milling Industries has seen an improvement in its business, thanks to competitors closing and a greater dependence on overseas wheat.

The company said the flour milling industry has been plagued with over capacity and volatile pricing in recent years.

However, a poor UK wheat harvest in 2012 has meant a greater need for imported grains which has helped Carr's, given the dockside location of its mills at Kirkcaldy, Fife, and Silloth, Cumbria.

It said another low volume harvest across 2013 is expected, meaning further reliance on overseas wheat.

The Scottish operation had also benefited from the closure of a Hovis mill on Dunaskin Street in Glasgow earlier this year, which helped to ease capacity pressure.

A new £17 million flour mill, the first to be built in Scotland in more than three decades, remains on track to open in Kirkcaldy during September.

Carr's said: "The planned significant efficiencies and improvements in operating margins [will come through next year]."

Analysts at Investec kept their predictions for this year unchanged, but added: "We still anticipate profit progress next year as the new mill drives flour milling returns back to more acceptable levels."

The weather also provided a boost to the agriculture division, which includes Ayr-based animal nutrition business Scotmin, at Carr's with cold and wet conditions in the spring saw a high level of sales of animal health products and feed blocks, particularly in the US, UK, mainland Europe and New Zealand.

A further £1.6m is being invested in a manufacturing plant in Watertown, New York State, for dairy cattle protein AminoMax because of high demand.

The UK plant manufacturing AminoMax opened at Lancaster in June and Carr's said the initial reception has been encouraging.

Its retail network in the UK has seen a fall in sales of farm machinery, but it plans to keep investing in its shops having seen success from a recent revamp of a flagship site in Carlisle.

The engineering arm was said to have seen strong revenue growth in the 18 weeks to July 6 with more demand for remote handing equipment and robotics from the nuclear and petrochemical industries.

German based Wälischmiller is experiencing "buoyant" demand with several major contracts completed and its order book still remaining healthy.

A revamp of the factory and offices at Markdorf in southern Germany is on course to be completed by the end of November.

Steel fabrication business Bendalls secured a deal with Hyundai to supply pressure vessels for BP oil fields to the west of Shetland.

Investec added: "Engineering continues to make solid progress on existing contracts, and with an encouraging rate of enquiries it expects to keep the order book busy for the next few years."

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