Plan carefully to replace grain storage

At anywhere from £80 to £140/t, new on-farm grain storage is difficult to justify purely on the benefit it offers in terms of grain prices, says Simon Blandford, head of farm management at Smiths Gore,

Assuming that a farm has some grain drying and conditioning equipment, a general purpose, 900-1200t heaped on-floor store can be built for between £80 and £110/t. Mr Blandford favours this type of storage because it offers flexibility.

“Start with a basic building, galvanised steel, concrete floor and concrete panelled walls, and a manual roller shutter door. You can upgrade from there. However, it is worth considering side access through more than one door rather than the conventional end on access – so that dividing the store would be a practical option in future.”

Sophisticated handling and conditioning equipment, like hardwood drying floors can add as much as 40% to the costs – hard to justify with wheat prices struggling to better £90/t.

“You have to be looking at about 1000t capacity because you’d really struggle to make the cost/benefit analysis work at anything smaller than that unless there are special circumstances,” says Mr Blandford. It may help to consider a building which is suitable for an alternative use, although crop assurance requirements mean this is increasingly difficult. And it’s important not to underestimate adminsitrative costs.

“Planning and Construction Design Management fees can add another £5-£10/t to the project,” says Mr Blandford. “A range of sites should be considered. Noise, lorry movements and screening are likely to be planning issues and these can all be catered for sensibly provided there is time. Allow at least a year and preferably 18 months from the original idea to completion of the built store.

“The straightforward replacement of a grain store on an existing site is unlikely to provide the sort of access and space needed. Leaving an existing store in place leaves the farm with more options, too. Choice of site is important for the final cost. A topographical survey of potential sites could save you a lot of money in levelling and drainage costs, for example.”

Successful projects often include some room for flexibility, Mr Blandford says. “A contingency of 5-10% in your budget is sensible. The more straightforward your plans, the more likely you are to come in closer to 5% than 10%. Look at the track record of contractors and visit other work they have done.”

And demolition of an exisiting building can ramp up costs considerably, especially if asbestos has to be removed.

“Don’t be tempted to do work yourself unless you really know what you are doing – levels are crucially important, as is the finish on concrete, which is a specialist job,” he says.

Grain store budget

• On-floor steel and concrete store building costs – £80-£110/t

• Planning fees – allow £2-£3/t

• Professional fees (planning consultant/project management/CDM) – usually up to £5/t usual but can be £10/t or more where specialist environmental audits needed

• Add 5-10% contingency cost

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