3 September 1999

Cereal store a commitment to the long term

Confidence in the long-term future of cereal growing

lies behind a Berks estates new £600,000 drying and

storage plant. Andrew Blake reports

WHEN Alastair Jeffrey took over as farms director at Lord Iliffes 3640ha (9000 acre) Yattendon Estates, near Newbury, in February 1998, he faced a stark choice – replace out-dated facilities or buy into a local co-op.

Bread-making wheat and oilseeds are the main crops on the 1460ha (3600 acres) of in-hand land which is 60% clay with flints. "Soil type means we dont get high feed wheat yields but we know we can get good milling quality," says Mr Jeffrey.

Until last year, the arable land was run as three separate units, each with its own machinery and labour. "We decided to bring everything together with one set of staff and equipment."

Previously there were eight grain stores spread across the estate, the most recent dating from the 1970s. "They were all small and antiquated and none would have met the new ACCS or millers standards without considerable expense."

One option was to buy local co-op storage space. But the chosen alternative, after exploring three tenders, was to build a central 7200t plant on an old piggery at Haw Farm.

"Its on what the government calls a brownfield site. This is clearly a combinable crop estate, although we do have three pig units and two dairies. We are looking long term. If we are to continue to supply the milling industry we had to do it. The only other choice would have been to get out of cereal growing."

Straightforward economics dictated the decision, says Mr Jeffrey. "It would have cost us £110/t to buy into Hants Grain and we would still have had drying and handling charges on top. With our new store it worked out at £89/t including drying.

"Although we spent £600,000, it is worth keeping that in perspective. The plant has a life expectancy of at least 25 years. The estate, as landlord, paid £240,000, which is already reflected in our rent, and the farm as tenant paid the rest, which for 7200t over 15 years starts to be acceptable." At the end of the written-down period the design allows for the main structure to be used for other purposes, he adds.

Another advantage, accepted in the granting of planning permission, is that the central site will reduce the burden of grain transport traffic on local roads. "We expect to save £3.50/t year on year because we wont need to make so many tractor and trailer trips," says Mr Jeffrey.