Centralisation – how all the sums added up
Changing grain markets,
food hygiene standards and
simple economics are
prompting growers to
reconsider central storage
Louise Impey talks to two
growers who found the
sums added up
ESSEX cereal grower John Latham joined farmer-owned central storage and marketing society Camgrain eight years ago.
At the time drying and storage facilities at 228ha (550 acres) Waltham Hall Farms, near Bishops Stortford were becoming obsolete.
Planning consent for change of use to the farm buildings was secured, allowing their conversion to 25 light industrial units which now house a variety of local businesses and supplement farm income.
Since then, the Latham family has taken advantage of Camgrain facilities to switch production to quality milling wheats and malting barley, replacing feed varieties.
"Now we have access to gravity separators, blenders and other specialist equipment, we are confident of being able to meet contract specifications," says Mr Latham. "It has allowed us to grow quality crops and maximise premiums."
A good example of this is Halcyon barley, which should top £110/t this spring. "Camgrain has a dried and dressed contract for malting barley at 12% moisture. Its given us an extra premium."
Rialto, which disappointed last year with protein below 11% and some ergot, will also get the full market value due to the stores blending and gravity separation equipment.
Mr Latham, who farms in partnership with his parents, initially bought 400t of storage, but now stores all his grain and oilseeds there. The purchase price of £84/t was more attractive than the £100/t investment needed to put up a new, basic on-farm store. He hopes it is an appreciating asset.
On-going development and investment also impressed. "The decline in grain prices makes it very difficult to justify that sort of investment in an individual farms facilities. It was the storage facilities which persuaded us to join. But we now make use of the marketing expertise too."
The £9/t handling charge is more than covered by the added value achieved, he maintains. "And it includes all the transport costs from the farm, as well as drying from 17%, cleaning, laboratory analysis, damping, gravity separation and store maintenance."
Waltham Hall Farms is ACCS registered for full marketing potential. From harvest 1999 Camgrain will separate assured and non-assured grain on intake, with more marketing opportunities anticipated for assured grain.