Beccles: Farmer-controlled grain processor gains DEFRA funding

Founding directors of Future Grain: Andrew Kendall, Miles Barne, Simon Thompson and John Whyte

Founding directors of Future Grain: Andrew Kendall, Miles Barne, Simon Thompson and John Whyte - Credit: Archant

A new farmer-controlled grain processing, storage and marketing facility which will be built on Ellough Airfield at Beccles has scooped nearly £1million in funding.

Future Grain Ltd, made up of a consortium of local farmers and landowners, was awarded a Rural Economy Grant (REG) by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

It says that the £958,000 REG will be used to fund the facility’s advanced 10,000-tonne processing unit, which will enhance the quality and value of combinable crops produced by farmers in East Anglia.

The funding is from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), for which DEFRA is the managing agent, and is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

Construction of the new grain store, which will incorporate the latest technology for drying, processing, conditioning, separating and storing combinable crops, will be completed in time for harvest 2015.

“DEFRA’s financial support for this exciting project represents a significant step forward and underlines the need for a facility of this type in a region where many existing on-farm stores are reaching the end of their working life and in urgent need of replacement,” states Andrew Kendall, chairman of Future Grain Ltd. “Farmers in Suffolk and Norfolk will be able to invest in Future Grain for much less than it would cost them to build their own on-farm store, with none of the associated worries of ongoing operation and maintenance. A number of forward-thinking farmers have been quick to recognise the potential of this low-cost, long-term asset and have committed to investing in the project at a time when increasing volatility in the agricultural commodity markets makes it increasingly important for them to maximise the quality and value of their crops.”

For around half the average cost of on-farm grain storage, now over £200 per tonne, Future Grain Ltd says it will provide its farmer-owners with a “sophisticated, high-capacity processing and storage facility” to enable them to capture both savings and opportunities from within the supply chain that would otherwise be unachievable.

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Operating year-round, the store aims to reduce running costs, lower risk and provide greater flexibility compared with on-farm storage.

Future Grain will collect members’ grain within 24 hours of harvest – or farmers can deliver it themselves – while the store will also process non-members’ crops on a commercial basis, thereby reducing the costs to members, who will receive all of the benefits.

Future Grain Ltd has already appointed two marketing partners who will work with them to operate the store and market members’ grain - Framlingham-based farming co-operative AtlasFram, which has a grian marketing service, and Dewing Grain Ltd at Aylsham in Norfolk which will provide Future Grain with a strategic store management service.

“We are delighted that DEFRA has recognised the value of this much-needed project to farmers in this region,” said Richard Anscombe, chief executive of AtlasFram Group.

“This new central store will allow farmers to benefit from access to an approved, state-of-the-art facility at much lower cost than would otherwise be possible, with the significant benefit of being able to add value to their crops.”