Million-tonne milestone for Great Yarmouth grain terminal

The millionth tonne of grain being loaded at the Great Yarmouth grain terminal.

The millionth tonne of grain being loaded at the Great Yarmouth grain terminal. - Credit: Submitted

The millionth tonne of grain has been exported through the deep-water port at Great Yarmouth – underlining the terminal's growing strategic role as an outlet for East Anglian farm produce.

The millionth tonne of grain is loaded at the Great Yarmouth grain terminal. Pictured are Gleadell g

The millionth tonne of grain is loaded at the Great Yarmouth grain terminal. Pictured are Gleadell grain trader Paul Dowson (left) and farmer Matthew Baker. - Credit: Archant

The milestone comes six years after merchants Gleadell invested £5m to develop its export business at the port. Since then cargoes of wheat, barley, oilseed rape and pulses have departed to destinations across Europe and North Africa.

Gleadell grain trader Paul Dowson, who is based at the company's Swaffham office, said: 'East Anglia is a major grain-producing region, but until the facility at Great Yarmouth opened, the nearest deep water ports regularly in use for grain were Immingham and Tilbury.

'The development enables us to load larger vessels from the region – Peel Ports Great Yarmouth is one of only seven or eight English ports capable of loading vessels over 13,000 tonnes in a grain surplus area.

'This has opened up a wider spread of markets, helping to ship the UK's exportable surplus. The port also directly benefits the region's farmers, as it reduces haulage distances from farm to a deep water port.

'The value to farmers is demonstrated by the large growth in the tonnage committed to the facility via the Great Yarmouth Growers Club, which offers specific storage and market benefits to farmer members.'

The millionth tonne, part of a 27,500-tonne consignment of feed wheat loaded onto the MV Resko bound for Spain this week, was delivered by Matthew Baker, who grows 1,800ha of combinable crops in Norfolk and Suffolk and is based at Boundary Farm, Ilketshall St Margaret, near Bungay.

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'We can't store all our grain, so having this facility close by, and the associated storage, has been valuable to our business,' said Mr Baker.

'It's on the doorstep for us, so we can move tonnes pretty quickly. It reduces our haulage costs and, more importantly, means we can get an extra load in per day.'

The port was acquired by Peel Ports in December. The firm's Great Yarmouth port director Richard Goffin said: 'These record-breaking tonnages from Gleadell highlight the strategic importance of Great Yarmouth in exporting grain grown from East Anglian farms.'

Shifting the surplus

The current season represents the record volume of grain shipped from Great Yarmouth, with this week's vessel taking the total exported to more than 250,000 tonnes.

Access to export markets in the Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal and north Africa are crucial in finding buyers for East Anglia's surplus of grain after two bumper harvests – with potentially another one on the way, said Gleadell grain trader Paul Dowson.

'The prospects are pretty good at the moment,' he said. 'All things being well we will have another good year, which means we will have another big surplus.

'This year we carried in 2.5m tonnes, but with the size of the crop we have just had, we are probably going to carry out the best part of 3.2m tonnes. Even with a slightly smaller crop this year, we are still going to have a pretty challenging time to export the surplus, especially when the rest of Europe has such big stocks as well.

'We've calculated that 1m tonnes equates to about 35,000 lorries unloaded here, and that is all East Anglian grain, predominantly from Norfolk and Suffolk. Eastern region farmers will produce something like four million tonnes of wheat per year. Our local domestic consumers will consume about 1.5m tonnes of that, so it leaves a surplus of 2.5m tonnes in the area. That means they either need to travel further to find other customers, which costs a lot of money, or they bring it to Yarmouth for export.'