Masses of useful information paid for by growers which could help them run their businesses more cost-effectively could be going untapped.

That was the unavoidable conclusion after Farmers Weekly arranged for a group of Barometer farmers and Farmer Focus writers to visit the HGCA stand at Cereals 2006.

Only four of the nine, who heard presentations from the authority’s staff on various aspects of work that their cereals and oilseeds levy money funds, said they regularly visited the HGCA website.

Yet in the drive for efficient delivery of marketing aids, R&D results and many other useful messages, the website, backed by emails and short text messages, was clearly the way ahead, explained chief executive Jonathan Cowens.

Welcoming the FW initiative Mr Cowens stressed the importance of interacting with those who funded HGCA work.

“We have difficulty in talking to levy payers because we don’t know you individually.

That’s because we don’t collect the levy directly from you.”

Much of the HGCA’s work, for example carbon accreditation for biofuels and the Greenhouse Gas Calculator, anticipated growers’ future needs, added Mr Cowens.

Andrew Flux outlined tools available to help levy-payers determine production costs and make marketing decisions.

“It’s all about risk management and determining your cost of production so you can set a minimum price at which you can go into the market and make a margin.”

Graham Jellis pointed out that every pound of the levy used for research, for example on varieties, attracted £2.50 from other sources.

Work on grain storage, perceived as “rather dull”, to reduce the industry’s annual £1m losses, had produced GrainPlan software, which could be especially helpful in assurance, suggested Roger Williams.

andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk