Study local buyers to avoid long haul

3 May 2002

Study local buyers to avoid long haul

SELLING grain on a long-haul contract may get you a better price, but sorting out a claim or rejection when your corn is 300 miles away can prove tricky.

Even a small variation above the target moisture content can cost over £2/t in deductions. But stumping up for such a claim is usually preferable to what is often the only alternative – paying to bring the whole load back home again.

Although, in the words of one merchant, it is best to "deliver what you sell", below-spec deliveries are always a possibility.

By choosing to sell to a local home some of these problems can be mitigated and often with a bit of background research a better price achieved into the bargain. But Gerald Mason, economist at the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, says producers knowledge of their local consumers is quite often less extensive than might be expected.

"To some extent farmers have been insulated by intervention and support prices, but that is now changing. We have been trying to get across the message that pricing and marketing should be viewed as separate functions when selling a crop.

"A lot of the traditional assumptions about what consumers are looking for can be outdated," he adds. "It should not be assumed that a local miller is looking for just Group 1 and 2 milling wheats. They may also want some Group 3 for biscuit making."

Richard Edwards, who farms 243ha (600 acres) near Newbury, Berks, agrees that searching out a suitable local home can pay dividends. "I think a lot of farmers just look at the NIAB list and choose a variety based on yield alone rather than considering all the available options."

Until a few years ago, he had not considered specific varieties. "I was growing what was fashionable at the time." But after hearing about contracts available from the local Rank Hovis mill at Andover, Hants, Mr Edwards started to grow about 50ha (125 acres) of Equinox – a Group 4 hard wheat – each year.

This season he is hoping to achieve a £2-3/t premium over standard feed wheat prices. "It is reasonably high yielding and can be treated as a feed wheat. If it does not meet the millers spec it can always go on the boat at Southampton."

Mr Mason advises that farmers looking for local homes should start by drawing a 50-mile radius around their holdings and identifying any potential buyer within the circle. To help with this the HGCA publishes a map (details from that shows all the mills and maltings in the UK.

The next step is to talk to the consumers within the target area and find out what they are looking for. "Without knowing the physical requirements of the customer it is difficult to choose which is the most suitable variety to grow."

To encourage this process the HGCA, in conjunction with the Cereal Liaison Group, is running a trial programme of visits to flour mills, maltsters and compounders. The associations Les Pickles says these will allow growers to understand fully what happens to grain after leaving the farm.

lContact Dee McLaughlin on 0207-520 3924. &#42

Growing for local markets can pay dividends, as Berks farmer Richard Edwards discovered a few years ago.

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