Farmers and food processors get connected

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supply chain, Yorkshire forward, Malt, Agriculture

A new initiative to connect farmers and processors in the Yorkshire and Humber region called Farexchange was launched last week. It coincided with...

A new initiative to connect farmers and processors in the Yorkshire and Humber region called Farexchange was launched last week. It coincided with news of a report to be published by the Chatham House think tank next month, which will warn of a potential food crisis in the UK unless concerted action is taken to secure food supplies.

An initial three year contract to deliver the ‘not for profit’ scheme has been won by the Farexchange Partnership, led by English Food and Farming Partnerships (EFFP). This brings 10 organisations together to help encourage collaboration between companies along the supply chain. The various organisations involved can provide professional support for projects to improve efficiency, reduce waste and exploit new and existing markets both in the region and further afield. The aim of the initiative is to create more innovative businesses in the region.

Last week, reports in the national press suggested that Chatham House would conclude that the UK’s food system would be unable to cope with rapid changes in supply driven by climate change, rising commodity prices and population growth. This assessment was supported by EFFP chief executive Sion Roberts at the Farexchange launch.

“Over the long run we are going to have to produce a lot more food,” said Roberts. “Prices [of food] will fall from the peaks but stay at a level considerably higher than the last 10 years.” There would also be significantly more price volatility, he added. “It will not just be a changed world for farmers, but a changed world for food companies as well,” he said. Roberts went on to say that the reliance of farming and food systems on oil for energy, transport and fertilisers etc, “will be challenged”

The Farexchange project is the result of two years’ work by Yorkshire Forward, which is funding the scheme. Yorkshire Forward’s food and drink sector manager John Sorsby said: “The Farexchange scheme is an integral element of Yorkshire Forward’s multi-million pound investment in supporting the food and drink industry in the region, which has a clear focus on innovation and supply chain development.”

Similar schemes to Farexchange have already proved their worth. A recent deal, in which EFFP acted as a broker, has successfully linked 100 Yorkshire and Humber farmers with the malting barley industry. Malted ingredients firm Muntons has joined forces with three farmer co-operatives - Grainfarmers and Centaur Grain (which have recently merged to form Openfield, a business with over 7,000 farmers handling 4Mt of grain, equivalent to 20% of the total UK market) and Grain Co - to build a 24,000t energy-efficient processing and storage complex at Bridlington. The £3.8M investment is scheduled to open next Easter.

Operating as a new company, Muntons Malt Supply Chain has devised novel contracts between itself, farmers and Muntons’ distiller and brewers such as Carlsberg UK, InBev UK, Diageo, Angus Dundee, Inver House Distillers and Joseph Holt to ensure continuity of barley supplies at a time of market volatility.

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