©Tim Scrivener

Bolton-based bread baker Warburtons has extended its wheat growing contracts with more than 300 British farmers for a further five years.

This reflects the growing commitment by millers to use home-grown wheat, as highlighted in new Defra statistics.

The contracts, through the baker’s grain supply partner Openfield, will give its growers some certainty up to harvest 2021.

See also: Warburtons contract delivers boost for wheat grower

“Over the past 17 years Warburtons has sourced more than 2m tonnes of wheat from British farms,” says Openfield’s head of supply chain Sarah Bell.

“This has contributed to more than 10bn bread products. This is an unparalleled level of commitment in the grain supply chain and one which has delivered great value for all parties.”

She adds that a Warburtons contract is unique within grain production, as it is the only agreement to offer a minimum price premium over base feed wheat values beyond a single season.

“Growing milling wheat to a defined specification takes skill and confidence.

“Offering a minimum premium guarantee and contracting for five years gives the grower the confidence to invest in equipment and storage facilities,” she says.

The focus on long-term relationships with its farmers enables Warburtons to ensure that long-term sustainability is a priority for its growers. The key areas of focus are healthy soil, good water stewardship and supporting biodiversity.

This announcement comes days after the publication of Defra statistics showing a shift by millers to UK wheat.

There was a 25% increase in the amount of home-grown wheat milled in 2014, with the milling of imported wheat down 28% to 87,000t in the same year.