30 June 2000

Co-operative storage & marketing really pay off

AS cereal growing margins shrink, Essex-based John Latham remains convinced that his eight-year-old investment in co-operative grain storage and marketing is a key to maximising returns.

"UK agriculture is becoming much more exposed to world markets." Now the best way for individual producers to make the most of those opportunities is to get together, he says.

His latest outlay, £5000 on buffer storage at Waltham Hall, Takeley, is modest by comparison.

As vice-chairman of the expanding Camgrain Co-op at Linton, Cambs, he believes his operations in Essex and Suffolk benefit greatly from its facilities and the marketing skills of sister co-op Fengrain.

His initial decision to become a Camgrain member was triggered by outdated on-farm arrangements and a change of use for the old grain store. Going the co-op route was cheaper, he says.

"But we also liked the idea that we were buying into an appreciating asset. We bought in some at £55/t on the open market which is now worth well over £70/t.

Camgrains latest £1.3m investment for this harvest adds another 8000t of storage, bringing the total to 80,000t. Also involved is a new Law-Denis 130t/hr drier – one of Europes biggest, says Mr Latham.

Back at Waltham Hall, his desire to make more profitable use of a building formerly used as temporary storage before delivery to the co-op has led to a new 500sq m concrete outdoor pad.

with limited retaining walls.

"That is all we need for anything going into Camgrain."

WALTHAMHALL

&#8226 New temporary grain storage.

&#8226 Co-op route to better markets.

&#8226 Professional equipment key.

&#8226 Sewage sludge easing eyespot?

Full co-op commitment means John Latham (right) and new farm manager Nigel Messer have little need for extensive on-farm storage, this buffer store being more than adequate.

This years Eastern barometer farm has recently installed new grain storage. But co-op

back-up means it is about as unsophisticated as it can get. Andrew Blake reports