East Anglia: Growers attend malting group’s conference

A long-established East Anglian malting group invited leading growers to discuss future strategy and improve returns for a key crop.

More than half the 250-strong farmer membership of the ABC Grower Group, launched by Crisp Malting Group about six years ago, attended a conference at Fakenham racecourse. Earlier about 80 members toured the Great Ryburgh plant and saw the famous floor maltings, which produce malt for real ales. The tour included testing procedures for barley quality at the grain intake followed by a chance to see the steeping, germination and kilning processes.

Crisp produces more than 50 different varieties of malt, including organic, for customers from award-winning micros and regionals to international brewers and some of the world’s top whisky distillers.

About 150 members, who supply Crisp Malting Group with malting barley and also wheat, rye and oats, discussed the supply chain, aspects of production, delivery and a new improved three-year contract.

Bob King, commercial director of Crisp Malting Group, said: “It goes to show the commitment from Norfolk’s farmers to their customers, and the level of interest they have in the whole supply chain.”

Managing director Euan Macpherson said nearly 90pc of the barley was bought from local farmers. The Great Ryburgh and Ditchingham maltings produce about 150,000 tonnes of barley malt. In a review of brewing and whisky distilling markets, he highlighted the importance of malt to Britain and of the export trade.

Mike Ader, of English Food and Farming Partnerships (EFFP), was asked to look at the supply chain from field to maltings and said that Crisp had formed the group to improve local sourcing of quality barley.

Most Read

The survey’s full details had provided the basis for constructive discussions by farmers, he said. It involved the steering committee members including Jim Papworth, Ed Jones, William Barber and David Jones.

Mr King said more storage would be made available to farmers and a new contract pricing option could help to spread or reduce risk.

But farm manager David Jones, who runs Morley Agricultural Foundation’s farm near Wymondham, voiced a common concern. As a relatively new member of the ABC Growers’ steering committee, he said: “We all want another �25 a tonne, but if Crisp agreed to pay that, it would just make them uncompetitive, so in the end it would backfire on us.”

Final speaker Adrian Dyter, from Carlsberg, highlighted its introduction of Null-Lox spring barley varieties which enhanced the shelf-life of its beer and explained the long-term relationship with Crisp and its expectations of a supply chain – grower, maltsters, brewer.