Yaregrain complex starts to take shape as steel erectors arrive at Cantley site

Steel erectors had arrived on site in the third phase of a £1.9m investment in a new Norfolk advanced grain processing complex, it was reported at the annual meeting of Yaregrain.

The project at Manor Farm, Cantley, near Acle, was scheduled for completion by harvest 2014, said Norfolk farmer Charles Bracey, who briefed members at the third annual meeting.

Yaregrain's plans to complete the advanced cereal processing unit and a further 6,000 tonnes storage were taking shape. 'This is no longer a dream. This is a real project,' said Mr Bracey.

'In three weeks' time, there will be four silos there. It is going to look more different.'

'We've made a start with building the base for the new four 1,800-tonne silos. The steel erectors have arrived to start building the silos and the site is being cleared for the new drier and the new advanced processing unit building which should be erected in January.'

He told the meeting at the Fur & Feather, Woodbastwick, that by the end of January, the processing equipment will be installed. 'Work to erect the drier will start in February. We're scheduled for completing in early June – ready for harvest in July. It gives a month to make sure that all the machinery is operating,' said the project director, Mr Bracey.

Retiring chairman and director, Andrew Alston, who farms at Catfield, was thanked on behalf of shareholders for his efforts for the company, both before and after the launch. His success at obtaining grants to create an enlarged grain storage enterprise was much appreciated.

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Mr Alston said that since the new company was set up about three years ago, it has invested close to £3m in the new facility. In July, it secured more than £761,000 in a 40pc grant from Defra through the regional development fund for rural areas. In discussions with Defra officials, Yaregrain had been described as 'one of their flagship projects,' he added.

'We need to go out and sell 6,000 tonnes of 'B' shares very quickly over the next two months. We have a bank loan for the remaining investment of £750,000,' he added.

A total of 1,500 tonnes of storage has been sold. Andrew Dewing, who is a director and manages the site, said that firm indications of interest had been made for a considerable tonnage.

Mr Dewing told members: 'Our storage costs are the lowest to purchase, the least complicated, and the lowest in the country, by a country mile. And when the charge per tonne is taken into account, we are very good value for money. I can't believe why any farm business that intends to continue offering contract services does not buy the tonnage as the contractor. They can offer it to whoever they're quoting for business by saying 'we've got the guarantee of central storage' so we can shift your crops.'

Nick Hood, of Heath Farms, Woodbastwick, said that it was 'insurance' and 'gives peace of mind' after the investment in growing the crop, which could be stored at the farmers' convenience. 'Central storage is jolly convenient and not that expensive. Those that that use it, love it,' he added.

Mr Dewing had invited Rebecca Geraghty, who is sector director of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, to visit the site.

The directors agreed to hold an informal open event in mid-January at the site so that the company's 50 members and prospective investors would see the progress.

Mr Bracey also said that a camera had been fitted on top of a silo, which was taking a photograph every day at noon, to chart the building progress on site.

To comply with the terms of Defra's grant offer, Yaregain must raise £450,000 in additional funding by selling 60 'B' shares by January 31. It has already sold 1,500 tonnes of new storage – leaving 4,500 tonnes. Each 'B' share, which costs £7,500, is an entitlement to store 100 tonnes.