24 May 2002

Wheat growers wanted

NEW durum wheat growers are being sought by Essex-based Harlow Agricultural Merchants to replace imports with traceable, assured grain.

The merchant is offering a new contract which it claims pays a better premium than previous agreements, at £35/t over feed wheat based on delivery to the mills at Tilbury and Great Yarmouth.

The aim is to increase the area of durum grown in the UK, to meet strong demand from processors Allied and Pasta Foods. About 60,000t of durum is used in the UK each year, to produce pasta, ethnic foods and biscuits. The UK supplies less than half, with Greek, Italian and Canadian imports making up the difference.

"We are keen to use more English durum wheat to provide customers with consistent quality, focusing on specific varieties, controlled inputs and offering traceability through assured supply," says Allied Mills wheat director, Mark Hughes.

Durum receives an area aid about £85/ha (£34/acre) above the standard cereal payment, on a maximum UK area of 5000ha (12,350 acres) a year. This year only about half that has been planted, and Harlow Agriculture hopes to reach the maximum in 2003.

Advantages include a wide drilling window and a spread workload, along with a grossmargin of almost £700/ha (£283/acre), says the merchant. &#42