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Yaregrain’s new membership offer aims to generate £400,000 of expansion capital

Yaregrain chairman Nick Hood and board member Sophie Young inside a renovated barn which has added 4,000 tonnes of grain storage capacity to the site at Cantley, near Acle. Picture: Chris Hill

Yaregrain chairman Nick Hood and board member Sophie Young inside a renovated barn which has added 4,000 tonnes of grain storage capacity to the site at Cantley, near Acle. Picture: Chris Hill

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A farmer-owned storage and processing complex which adds value to Norfolk-grown grain is aiming to fund a £400,000 expansion through its latest membership drive.

The storage silos at Yaregrain, near Cantley.  Picture: James Bass The storage silos at Yaregrain, near Cantley. Picture: James Bass

Yaregrain, based at Cantley, near Acle, currently has 61 farmer members who own 18,000 tonnes of grain storage, with access to the site’s high-capacity dryer, colour sorter and gravity separator.

In the fourth phase of the site’s development, another 4,000 tonnes of membership is now being offered at £100 per tonne, to raise enough capital to further expand storage capacity and improve plant efficiency.

For the first time, tiered storage charges are also on the table, including a zero-charge option giving members short-term access to the store at harvest time, and the flexibility to decide whether to sell their crop immediately, or pay for storage later and wait for better prices.

Yaregrain chairman Nick Hood said: “We have been listening to farmers and the feedback is that people value the off-farm central storage model, but they are looking for more flexible ways of storing their grain.

“We are offering an industry first, which is a ‘no storage charge’ option. You can buy your tonnage here, we can get it off your farm and keep the harvest moving, but it is not compulsory to store it for a long period.

“It gives the grower the option of whether they want to speculate on the market but still have the benefit of getting it off the farm when they need to. If it needs sorting or drying they get reduced rates.

“It is also about farmers owning more of their product for longer, and making more marketing decisions. You are not just selling it off and letting a merchant make the money out of it.”

Mr Hood said future investment plans included making the site the main Norfolk destination for “distressed loads”, by improving the ability to upgrade poor quality grains in order to ensure premium prices.

“Within our membership, farmers have saved up to £30 per tonne by upgrading poor malting barley,” he said. “If the difference between feed and malting barley is £50, which is the case this year, if it costs £20 to sort it out there is still a lot of value there.”

Yaregrain aims to sell its extra capacity by the end of April, and is contacting existing members this week to encourage them to increase their holding.

OPENING NEW OPPORTUNITIES

The newest member of Yaregrain’s board said off-site storage could give growers the flexibility to find new income streams on their own farms.

Sophie Young is a former agricultural accountant who is a partner at her family’s 550ha arable farm at MD Wright in Acle, which has got 300 tonnes of storage capacity at Yaregrain.

She said: “We have got barn storage on the farm as well for our wheat, barley and oilseed rape, but having storage here means we can use our barns for other things during the year. That might be a benefit for a new member, particularly now when people are looking for other income streams on their farm which are not dependant on BPS (the Basic Payment Scheme subsidy, funded under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy).

“They might have a barn that they use to store wheat for three months of the year, but if they can bring their wheat here they can use their barn for something else.”

On joining the six-strong Yaregrain board, she said: “I have never done anything like this before, so I thought it was nice to step outside your comfort zone and it is a chance to see how another sector of the industry works.

“And this new expansion phase is an exciting time and hopefully we can get more members into this system so they have got these benefits.”

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