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western growers group 200x150The Molson Coors (UK) Carling Western Growers' Group, established by Frontier Agriculture with assistance from English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP), has recently organised a number of events to share and encourage best practice amongst farmers in the group.

Three separate initiatives have seen farmers:

  • Make a field trip to Denmark to investigate and compare barley farming best practice
  • Attend a number of evening events promoting barley storage best practice
  • Visit demonstration barley sites to view trial plots of varieties for harvest in 2011.

Andrew Flux, Grain Procurement Manager for Frontier Agriculture said: "These three initiatives are all examples of ways we are working together, sharing knowledge with farmers and responding to the needs of the end user."

The Carling Western Growers' Group was formed two years ago and now involves around 70 Frontier farmers who are in agreement to supply a significant proportion of the malting barley used in the brewing of Carling, the UK's best selling lager [1], by Molson Coors (UK) in Burton on Trent. Molson Coors (UK) only uses  100% British barley in the brewing of Carling, which is the only mainstream lager to receive Red Tractor certification, proving that 100% of Carling barley has met the high quality standards set by Red Tractor throughout its production, from grain to glass. Frontier Agriculture is Molson Coors' (UK) biggest supplier of barley.

Field trip to Denmark

At the end of June a group of 20 farmers who are members of the Carling Growers' Group, accompanied by representatives from Frontier Agriculture and Molson Coors (UK), made a fact finding trip to barley growing regions in Denmark. The trip was partly funded by Landskills West Midlands and partly by the farmers themselves, in order to see if any ideas or best practice could be learnt and then replicated in the UK. Denmark was chosen because it is a major supplier of malting barley in the EU but operates a cooperative based supply chain and this offered opportunities to compare and contrast the Danish system with ours in the UK.

David Hall, EFFP Regional Manager, said: "We visited Copenhagen in Denmark and then travelled south to a number of sites including brewers, farms and merchants. The trip was useful in that it endorsed the systems we already have in place through the group. What we found was that the supply chain in the UK has comparatively better integration between its elements than what we saw in Denmark."

Malting barley storage events

Events took place at Hazlecote Farm, where growers were invited along to learn more about the storage of malting barley in order to maintain maximum quality and minimise the risk of contamination or deterioration of grain, which could result in potential rejection of product on delivery.  Twenty five farmers attended the events and Jake Freestone from Overbury Farms, in Tewkesbury said: "As growers we are dealing with a living organism and the seeds or grains must be kept in perfect conditions to avoid losing germination or getting pest infestations. Good store management is essential for producing a quality product and events like this help us share knowledge and improve how we operate."

Malting barley demonstration sites

The Molson Coors (UK) Carling Western Growers' Group now has a dedicated barley demonstration site and farmers in the group were recently invited to see trials of barley in place and compare products before making decisions on next year's crop. Experts from Frontier and Molson Coors (UK) were also on hand to answer questions and give specific advice on which varieties to grow and crop protection and nutrition.

Andrew Flux said: "We've now established the barley demonstration sites and farmers in the group benefit enormously from coming along and seeing firsthand the results of the varieties being grown here. Growers are able to improve their efficiency through participating in these initiatives, but ultimately everyone in the supply chain gains because we're ensuring consistency and quality of supply through sharing of best practice. As we go forward it's our intention to organise more events like these and to provide as much support as we can to members."

Speaking about the three events Mr Flux concluded: "There are enormous benefits to come from developing closer working relationships between growers and end users. By creating the group and agreeing a contract between farmers and Molson Coors (UK) we have secured supply of grain for a three year period. This way of working fosters a climate where all of those involved communicate with each other regularly. This results in consistency of supply and gives farmers the ability to plan ahead better. The end result is farmers producing high quality grain to the exact specification of the brewer. A more direct relationship with growers will also allow future opportunities to be developed and implemented rapidly, with the potential to deliver value and improved price stability."

[1] Source:1. AC Nielsen Scantrack Lager w/c 27 Dec 09 & On Beer Sep 2009


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