Relationships in the UK grain chain have, over the years, not always been all they could have been.
For millers facing ever more stringent food safety legislation and tighter customer specifications, communicating what this means to cereal growers can be a real challenge. More often than not the discussion ends up as a contractual debate about price and deductions, with little time given on either side to further explanation.
It was with this situation in mind that HGCA’s annual Meet the Processor programme began three years ago – an event dedicated to bringing growers and millers together.
In the UK, HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, has worked for almost fifty years to help create a more robust and sustainable cereals industry. As current HGCA chairman, I meet growers and businesses across the whole supply chain, and what is heartening is the positive feedback I get from growers who have taken the opportunity to visit a local mill and to discuss the miller’s requirements face-to-face. Millers too, have welcomed the chance to explain their businesses in more detail.
For growers, a good relationship with a miller can mean greater flexibility when marketing their crop. For the miller, it’s an opportunity to see the faces of their grower suppliers, and to explain the complexities of their part of the industry. But for both groups, the message is clear: it’s good to talk.
Meet the Processor – why this can help
The overriding aim of the events is to encourage open dialogue and better understanding between growers and processors in a non-contractual setting.
It’s important that growers know why certain technical specifications have to be met – and also how processors manage in years like 2012 when grain quality in the UK was relatively poor. It’s all about building strong relationships through knowledge and understanding.
The events provide a great overview of the next stage of the food chain, and growers get a good insight into what quality parameters millers are looking for and the issues they face - wild oat seed contamination being just one example. Growers also get an insight into which varieties are more likely to be in demand come harvest.
The HGCA has organised a series of these events in spring this year – open to all UK processors and growers. This year’s initiative offers the chance to see modern milling machinery, cereal and seed laboratories and test bakeries in action.
Jonathan Tipples is the chairman of the UK’s Home Grown Cereals Association (HGCA) and an arable farmer from Kent, England.