One agricultural entrepreneur believes arable growers should seek opportunities to add value to their own crops to help beat commodity-driven price slumps.
Market prices for crops such as feed wheat and rapeseed are struggling to cover cost of production at present and look set to remain bearish for the foreseeable future.
To try to counter this and become more resilient to volatility of global commodity markets in the future, Norfolk-based William Hudson reckons is it necessary to “think outside the box”.
To assess the demand for indigenous pulses, Mr Hudson and partners Nick Saltmarsh and Josiah Meldrum bought 1t of split fava beans and distributed them in small portion packs through local shops and community groups in 2012.
The packs included a short postcard questionnaire and after a positive response, they set up Hodmedod’s – a small company that markets a number of products containing British-grown pulses, quinoa and other grains.
Supplied by growers around Great Britain, its products are sold online for mail delivery and through retailers, with a range of gluten-free flours recently added to its growing portfolio.
Mr Hudson says it is a way for farmers to take back value skimmed off by the supply chain; using alternative routes to retail for locally and sustainably produced products.
He sees Hodmedod’s chosen niche of home-grown pulses and quinoa as a growth area and the company aims to be a market leader, but there are a number of other crops that could enable growers to add value.
“There are so many ingredients used in ethnic food consumed in the UK that we could grow, but we don’t and they have to be imported.
“A good place to start is on the supermarket shelf. Go in and have a look around, see which of those imports you could grow and give it a go,” says Mr Hudson.