Developing the arable market with quality production
Chair: Bruce Pearce (ORC)
Nigel Gossett (Norton Organic Grain): Understanding and improving our efforts in the arable market
Born and grew up near Colchester, Essex on an arable/nursery unit. Attended Writtle Agricultural college and after obtaining a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Studies Nigel spent over 20 years in various roles within the grain trade with Dalgety, including 6 years working in Central Europe, which gave him an important insight into how the countryside can change rapidly under intensive farming practices Nigel has been with Norton Organic Grain Ltd since 2002 and helped expand the business significantly as the popularity of organic goods took off.
Presentation - Understanding and improving our efforts in the arable market
Michael Marriage (Doves Farm): What do grain users expect of their suppliers?
Michael converted the family farm to organic agriculture in 1978 and set up the specialty flour mill, Doves Farm Foods, to process the grain grown on the farm . The company now produces a wide range of grain based products, including flours, biscuits, breakfast cereals, buying a wide range of grains from UK and overseas farmers, the company supplies bakers & food manufacturers as well as being brand leader in the retail home-baking market. Michael has a passion for grains and flour as well as an interest in bread making. He has sat on Soil Association committees for organic Agricultural Standards and Ethical Trade and was a founder member of British Organic Farmers. Michael has worked in many countries around the world, especially in Africa for Oxfam. Through this he experienced many different types of agriculture and systems for the production of food.
Presentation - What do grain users expect of their suppliers?
Cark Maunsell (Oat Services): The trouble with oats….?
Cark Maunsell is a director of Oat Services Ltd. Oat Services used to import Argentinean and Canadian organic high quality wheat into the UK. The company is a major supplier of a blended oat product into the bread industry, and markets a number of oat ingredients for use in natural cosmetic products. He is also Chairman of the management committee of QUOATS, a five year plough to plate oat focussed research project.
Presentation - The trouble with oats….?
Session Summary -
The success of any commercial business depends largely on identifying a market for a product and matching supply with demand. Nigel Gossett, Norton Organic Grain, began the session by advising grain producers to “know their market” and plan crop rotations with an end use in mind.
Total organic grain demand is currently 172,257t. More than half of trade in the organic grain market is in wheat where demand for home-grown organic grain currently exceeds its supply. The majority of this trade is in feed wheat, largely due to its flexibility as a raw material for use as a component in feed products. In contrast the market demand for triticale, barley and oats, is currently lower than their supply. Cark Maunsell, Oat Services, suggested that the relatively small organic oat market can be attributed to misconceptions about the its quality and a lack of adequate marketing. In response Cark reported results from recent trials at the Organic Research Centre which suggest oats can achieve exciting yields, particularly husked varieties, and can be particularly suitable for organic farms, being competitive against weeds, performing well in low fertility soils with low inputs, and being tolerant to soil pH and a range of soil types. Michael Marriage, Doves Farm, suggested the gluten-free market could provide a marketing opportunity for home-grown organic oats because they are naturally free of gluten. However they cannot currently be marketed as such due to contamination of gluten from wheat, rye and barley volunteers and from grain residues in haulage lorries.
In addition to proposing a marketing opportunity for organic oats, Michael Marriage also suggested that growers consider alternative types of wheat to the common wheat Triticum aestivum. Since its early domestication, the wheat plant has developed into several species including Einkorn, Spelt, and other heritage wheats which can be used as an alternative crop to common wheat in the organic rotation. Like oats, Einkorn and Spelt may also be more suitable than common wheat for people with gluten intolerances. A potential limit to expanding the range of grain crops grown in the rotation is a lack of bins available at grain processing plants; however one solution suggested during the session is to find local marketing opportunities such as selling directly to local livestock farmers.
Another key theme to the session was grain quality and the requirements and expectations of grain users and processors from their suppliers. Nigel Gosset and Michael Marriage highlighted the importance of achieving and maintaining grain quality to meet the standards of a premium market. Moisture content should not exceed 15%, specific weight should be a minimum 72kg/hl for wheat, mycotoxins, salmonella, and pest infestation should all be below thresholds and ideally samples should be tested for mycotoxins prior to sending to the mill. Michael Marriage recommended milling samples be sent to the mill between September and February and should certainly be sold by March as most buyers will have already sourced their grain by then.
Key Discussion Points
- The fluxuating price premium for organic grain. Should organic producers grow conventional grain as insurance policy? The panel answered with the suggestion that the organic premium is not the important figure to consider. If margins in the organic sector are adequate the premium is not important.