A rise of 38% year-on-year, or nearly 16 billion levs (8.1 billion euro) in profits. These numbers show the financial performance in 2022 of the 100 largest companies in Bulgaria's agricultural sector, in which grain traders traditionally have the strongest presence. The war holding sway in a key grain producer such as Ukraine has sent prices skyrocketing on fears of shortages, boosting the turnover of the players in the sector.
More impressive is the combined profit of the agriculture companies which jumped by 70%, leading to improved profitability of 6.2%, compared to 4.8% in the previous year. However, employment in the sector increased only marginally, by less than 550 people in total for all 100 companies.
The grain harvest in Bulgaria was poorer in 2022. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, 6.2 million tons of wheat were harvested, which is 12% less than in 2021. Corn used for grain was down 26% to 2.5 million tons, and harvested sunflower increased by 6% up to 2.1 million tons. Generally, increased prices offset the fall in the harvested volumes.
Expectations that the bull market will continue have led many companies to hold grain in stock in the hope of big profits. However, the stabilization of the market has visibly reduced prices, which will affect the companies' performance this year.
The traditional champions
The largest local trader, Burgas-based Sevan, which has been in the market for nearly 30 years, has moved up the ladder to become the leader in the sector. The company is owned by Artur Hakopyan and his family and is part of a group that, in addition to grain trading, also deals with land cultivation (120 thousand decares owned and leased), has huge grain warehouses and a fleet of trucks. With over 25% growth last year, the company's turnover is now approaching 1 billion levs.
Interestingly, the leader of last year's ranking, Agro Bord, saw its revenue drop from over 1 billion levs to 285 million levs, which send the company to 13th position. This is not a surprise, given that the company owned by Tsanko Kolovsky mainly trades in Ukrainian grain transported across the Black Sea.
Two of the top three are companies that are part of large international trading groups. Cargill Bulgaria is owned by the U.S.-based Cargill and trades in grain and oilseed crops, and in 2022 its turnover exceeded 900 million levs. The company is also the largest employer in the sector - employees have increased by more than 10% and already exceed 1500 people. The main reason for this is that the local company has a shared service center that it provides to the group and its customers.
Cofco International Bulgaria is part of the Chinese Cofco, which entered the country in 2019 and quickly rose to top positions in the sector. In 2022, the company's sales remained practically unchanged, edging down by 1% year-on-year.
The next company on the list, Euroconsult, is among the unknown players in the sector and has only one staff member. According to its report in the Commercial Register, it deals in the processing of black oil sunflower seed through foreign subcontractors. This did not prevent it from increasing its turnover by nearly 40% in 2022. The company is owned by Vasil Mihailov Vasilev, who also has a processing company - Oiropak, in Popovo, where nearly 280 people are employed, according to data as of July this year.
In fifth position is for Buildcom, which mainly trades in wheat. The company made over 635 million levs in sales, growing impressively by 68%. Angel Georgiev's group is better known for sunflower oil producer Oliva, and its consolidated revenues exceed 3 billion levs. Earlier this year, the company announced that through its subsidiary Logistic Center - Varna it will build a grain port in Varna worth 100 million euro. Half of the project's cost will be financed through a loan from the European Investment Bank. The grain terminal should be ready in 2026.
Invisible in the ranking remains one of the large producers and traders - Agria Group Holding, which includes over 20 related firms. However, its subsidiaries Kristera (8th place), Corn Trade (15th place), Amber (39th place) and Kristera-agro (94th place) are well known. The group cultivates over 150,000 decares of land in northeastern Bulgaria and also plans to build a port, on the shore of Lake Beloslav, for 45 million euro.
Outside the grain business, the largest in the agricultural sector is chicken meat producer Pilko in Razgrad, which occupies 18th place in the ranking. The company is part of Ameta Holding and is owned by Germany's PHW. The group also includes forage plant Rositsa in Pavlikeni. Among the large companies in the sector there are also traders of plant protection preparations. Fruit and vegetable producers are practically absent from the top 100.
More can be said about the business of the most dynamic companies in the agriculture sector. Their ranking is more diverse, with a total of 9 firms reporting three-digit revenue growth last year. At the top is once again a grain producer - Svetoslav Ilchovski, who became known recently for his public revelations about corruption in the sector. The sole-trader company operates in northwestern Bulgaria and is engaged in the production, storage and trade of agricultural produce. In 2022, the company quadrupled its revenues, to over 155 million levs, ranking 25th in the sector.Second in terms of revenue growth is vegetable producer Greens from Parvomai, which increased its turnover by 264%. The company is owned by Yordan Balabanov and Nikolay Valchev. According to information on its website, it has 630 decares of own land, on which 240 decares of greenhouses are located. Greens mainly grows tomatoes, cucumbers and pepper.
KAM 78 - Agro which trades in grain, seeds and forage occupies third position with a 262% growth in revenues to over 100 million levs. The company is based in Montana and is owned by Desislava Damyanova Mladenova. In the general sector ranking, the company is in 50th place.
Livestock company Boni Farm Nikola Kozlevo posted the fourth largest increase in turnover, of 236%. It is part of Boni Holding group - the owner of Svinekompleks Brestak (41st position), which also grew rapidly last year, and Boni Farm Zimen (87th place). The holding also owns meat processing plants in Lovech, Karlovo and Ruse.
The top five is completed by grain trader Agro Life - A from Karnobat, which increased its revenue by over 220% to 117.6 million levs (38th place in the sector ranking). The company was established in 2016 and is owned by Atanas Plamenov Kostadinov.
The most profitable ones
The company Buildcom had the biggest profit in the agriculture sector last year. It increased its financial result by an impressive 4,606%, but the main reason for this was receiving a dividend from Oliva.
The ranking is followed by Svetoslav Ilchovski, which recently commented to Kapital that this is due to the fact that it did not raise rents. The sole trader also has the highest profitability in the sector (close to 46%).
The winner of last year's profit ranking, Zlatia Agro, is now third, with profit decreasing by 6%. However, the company maintains profitability of over 22%, which makes it fifth on this indicator in the sector. The grain producer operates in northwestern Bulgaria and is owned by Kiril Ivanov, who also owns the seed and preparation dealer ASM (11th in terms of revenue in the general ranking).
The manufacturer of foie gras and duck products Elit - 2095 reports a very high rate of return (39%). Nikola Angelov's company is one of the few in animal husbandry that does not grow pigs and chickens. Its revenues rose by 120%, ranking it 52nd in the agricultural sector.
With about 25% profitability are Ruse Svinekompleks Brashlen and Variety Seeds - Vardim of Svetoslav Dichevsky. He is also owner of Octopus Invest Holding and the largest Bulgarian recipient of state agri-subsidies at group level.