Kellogg’s is to start sourcing wheat direct from UK farms through its Origins Programme, it was announced at Openfield’s farmer conference this week.

The breakfast cereal manufacturer’s requirement for Group 3 and soft Group 4 wheat varieties is to be supplied by dedicated grower groups with access to financial support from Kellogg’s, following two pilot schemes in Yorkshire and Northamptonshire.

In Yorkshire, an initial commitment of 10,000-15,000t of wheat was sought in 2013, the grower group’s first year, reported Richard Jenner, director of origination at Openfield. Grain supplied had to meet a specific weight of 72kg/hl and a Hagberg of 150.

“There are just 10 growers in that pilot group at the moment, but the plan is to scale that up by the third year,” he explained.

“As well as committing some of their grain, the growers concerned had to attend four technical meetings, allow crop monitoring and provide feedback, in line with Kellogg’s aims to share knowledge.”

See also Why you should get involved in Open Farm Sunday

Currently all Group 3 and soft Group 4 wheat varieties are eligible for the scheme, which is based on the same principles as an Origins Programme for sourcing rice in Spain – now with over 1,000 farmer members.

Behind both the wheat and rice initiatives is a long-term commitment to help farmers develop solutions to technical growing challenges, through a partnership approach involving training, showcase farms and best practice, said James Ede, senior manager public affairs Europe at Kellogg’s.

This sees Kellogg’s offering cash to grower groups to address technical issues.

“This is not a grain contract and there’s no additional premium on offer,” stressed Mr Ede. “It’s a different business model and one which should bring benefits across the whole rotation, not just the crop being grown to go into our products.”

Each group will receive funding from Kellogg’s, so that participating growers can use it to address issues that they have identified as needing further scrutiny.

To date, these issues include soil health, crop quality, invasive weeds and environmental schemes, revealed Mr Ede. “These have been identified by the participants, not by Kellogg’s. As well as Openfield, our partners in the UK include organisations such as NIAB TAG and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, so that technical expertise is available.”

He added that the Origins Programme is designed for developing long-term relationships, so that growers can improve yields, quality, margins and knowledge.

“There’s a great deal of flexibility and no rigid rules. But it’s early days for the UK and if the scheme isn’t quite right, we will change it.”

In a further move to support British farming, Kellogg’s will be a national sponsor of Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2014.