12 May 2000

Grain group lands deal

GRAIN marketing co-op Group Cereals has landed a deal to supply Warburtons, a Lancs-based baker, with 30,000t of milling wheat next season.

The grain – all Hereward – will come from about 30 farms within the group, says managing director Patrick Davis. He believes it is the biggest single deal made between a co-op and an end user in the UK to date.

"This tonnage represents all of Warburtons UK wheat usage. But there is potential to go much higher – the company uses about 200,000t of grain a year, much of it from Canada and northern Europe," says Mr Davis.

The partnership started in 1998, when the family-owned baker was keen to find a UK supplier able to provide traceable, top quality breadmaking wheat. Group Cereals, together with Herts and Essex Grain, supplied 5000t in 1998 and 1999. This was tested for baking potential.

The other partner was Allied Mills, who supplied Warburtons with the flour. Rank Hovis has now also joined the scheme.

Results proved encouraging, hence the big increase this year, says Mr Davis. "All members are ACCS accredited, which has helped provide a big opportunity to replace imported grain, and rewards members too."

Farmers receive a guaranteed minimum premium over feed, although this remains confidential. Extra may be paid according to the market at the time.

Newer varieties will also be tried, which should help boost tonnage.

"There has been a lot of talk about linking up the food chain, but very little action," says Mr Davis. "We shall now be looking to develop more of these agreements. It helps to have customers locked in – it is far better to grow for a certain market than to grow and hope."

Patrick Davis (centre) reckons the Wraburtons deal is likely to grow.