COUNTRYWIDE FARMERS and Centaur Grain have unveiled plans for collaboration which should save farmer members hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

The new venture, called “Farmers in Partnership” stands to make its biggest savings on the haulage of their combined 2m tonnes a year. The two companies aim to open their books on logistics, integrating their truck movements and cutting down on empty loads.

“We are all spending too much money on moving grain about in the UK and it’s the single biggest expense in the business,” said Graham Lacey, trading director at Centaur.

“If a Countrywide lorry is in a Centaur farm, there”s no reason it shouldn”t be picking up produce. No longer will haulage just be a secondary concern, with marketing driving it; it could be that haulage determines how marketing is done.”

The deal also makes Centaur the sole supplier to Countrywide”s feed mills, which turn out some 300,000t of mostly compound feed each year. This streamlined supply chain will pass savings on to farmers either through better farmgate prices or lower feed prices, Mr Lacey said.

Another benefit for Centaur is the potential new business among Countrywide’s existing customer base of 40,000 people. And the farm supplies retailer stands to gain from communicating its crop needs to Centaur farmers, and selling them seed and other products.

“The supply chain has to be more efficient and we couldn”t do that by ourselves as Countrywide Farmers,” said managing director John Hardman.

“Collaboration will provide more routes to market: Centaur customers will send crops direct to our mills and we hope more routes will open up to us as we roll out the integrated supply chain.

“Those people that don’t get in first are going to wake up in two years’ time and find there’s no one left to form relationships with,” he added.

Jeremy Pope, chairman at the English Food and Farming Partnership, which advised on the deal, said that more collaborative ventures would emerge this year. “We need to think laterally and take out cost throughout the farming and food chain,” he said.

Sir Don Curry, whose work on the Sustainable Farming & Food strategy led to the setting up of the EFFP, welcomed the confidence that such deals would give to farmers in the decoupled world.

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk