An initiative to ringfence thousands of tonnes of malting barley for UK brewers, coordinated by collaborative networking group Farexchange Partnership and involving malt supplier Muntons was launched this month.
Muntons Malt Supply Chain is a joint venture between 100 farmers in the Yorkshire and Humber region and brewers and distillers such as Carlsberg, InBev and Diageo. The farmers are part of the Openfield and Grainco co-operatives, which between them can provide millions of tonnes of malt.
It is the first of many projects being worked on by Farexchange - part of agrifood business consultancy English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP) - to come to fruition. The potato and meat sectors are set to benefit next, said Paul Rhodes, EFFP regional manager for Yorkshire & Humber and the East Midlands and Farexchange project manager. "There are 35 work streams, some of which will deliver significant supply chains. Some of the ones we are working on at the moment are industry changing."
Under the agreement, first outlined last year, barley produced by the farmers will be funnelled through a newly constructed £4.5M intake and storage facility owned by Muntons to the drinks giants. The facility has the capacity to store 24,000t of malt, worth £12M per year at current prices. But the aim is to increase this.
The move follows a shortage in malt supply experienced by the market last year. The situation provided a powerful motivation for establishing the group, although Farexchange said there were other drivers, such as increased competition for wheat supply for UK biofuel crop projects.
In addition, the current weakness of sterling offered another incentive, because malt sourced from within the UK was cheaper than that sourced from outside. It was also of a higher quality. "Brewers have a secure crop of high quality malt with a link to the farm, guaranteeing their brands' integrity," said Rhodes.
Because the deal enabled brewing and distilling sites to source supplies locally, it also reduced road miles and enabled processors to respond more rapidly to demand.
Farexchange also aims to develop a malt and barley forum, a Knowledge Transfer Network group comprising farmers and brewers focused on improving malt quality.
Farexchange aims to boost the security of UK food supply and is funded by Yorkshire Forward.