Farmers collaborate to set up grain drier at port

Five Hampshire farmers have joined forces with grain merchant Frontier to set up a grain drying business at Southampton docks.

Both parties have invested a total of almost £500,000 in the project, which also benefitted from grant funding through the South East Development Agency.

A new standalone company, Southampton Marketing and Drying LLP, has been set up and the farmers will install, own and operate two grain driers, which have a combined drying capacity of 70t an hour.

They will be able to take grain from across southern England up to 19% moisture and it is hoped to be operational in time for this harvest.

Andrew Flux, who negotiated the deal for Frontier, said the Southampton grain terminal was an important home for grain from southern England, with exports ranging from 300,000-500,000t a year.

“We are delighted with this new collaborative approach to marketing and drying. The advent of bioethanol demand for wheat in the north of the country along with malting barley demand in the Midlands and East Anglia means that exports will continue to be vital for the profitability of cereal farming in the south of England.”

One of the founder members of the new business is David Bate, who farms 1500ha at West Harting near Petersfield. “We realised there was a need for greater drying capacity at harvest, both on our own farms and others,” he said.

“It made sense to put the driers at the point of consumption, both in terms of cost and logistics, so we approached Frontier as the operator of the Southampton export facility. We are delighted to have created this unique partnership which we believe will bring benefits to farmers in the south.”