ONE OF the UK‘s largest farmer-owned grain suppliers is on the look out for East Anglian oat growers for an exclusive contract for Bernard Matthews.

Centaur Grain has been selected to act as sole supplier of naked oats to the company‘s Bawsey poultry feed mill near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.

This will involve 3,000 tonnes from the 2004 harvest, but Centaur hopes to boost its commitment by an additional 5,000t by harvest 2005 and fulfil other contracts to the poultry industry.

Centaur‘s Richard Jenner said the farmer-owned company was committed to developing the understanding of naked oats and would be offering producers a full technical support package.

“To evaluate all the factors involved in getting the best out of the crop we are keen to encourage production across a range of soil types and will be sharing the information among all the partners involved,” he added.

Growers for the contract must farm within “a reasonable proximity” to King‘s Lynn to ensure the crop remains cost-effective for Bernard Matthews to use in poultry rations, said Centaur.

Renewed interest in naked oats has been spurred on by a government and industry-funded research project to demonstrate the feed value of new cultivars in the poultry industry.

Winter naked oats provide a unique combination of high oil content and starch that is unavailable from any other cereal, and the cultivars were specially selected to optimise energy and protein.

Two varieties are on offer to growers on the contract, both bred by the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and supplied by SW Seed.

Hendon is a dwarf naked oat variety with good lodging resistance, while Expression offers increased yield over the most popular naked oat Grafton.