Arable Views – ‘Your own marketing department’

Openfield chief, James Dallas provides Farmers Guide with an overview of what the UK’s largest farmer-owned grain marketing co-operative can do for its members.

Openfield chief executive officer, James Dallas provides Farmers Guide readers with an overview of what the UK’s largest farmer-owned grain marketing co-operative can do for its members.

Openfield’s primary objective is to provide benefit to its members – acting as the marketing department of its members’ farming businesses – linking the supply chain from primary producer to the consumer.

Managing grain marketing risk on behalf of farmers is key and, by doing so, Openfield reduces their exposure to both national and global market volatility.

There are many ways to manage this risk and what suits one business may not be right for another. This is why Openfield has developed a comprehensive suite of risk-management products to help its members to achieve impressive results without exposing them to unnecessary levels of risk.

Market value

Last year Openfield significantly outperformed the market in terms of value achieved for its pool grain. It achieved this by re-enforcing its position as the leading supplier of grain to the wider market through growing its UK market share. Openfield always strives to achieve appropriate premiums and 64 per cent of the wheat marketed within the Spring Pool(s) achieved some form of premium.

However, the Openfield Partnership has always been about more than just grain. Openfield has a comprehensive fertiliser and seed offer with which to benefit members’ businesses.

Selecting a variety based on suitability and cropping options can be a major challenge for growers. Our aim is to remove any uncertainty by promoting varieties that have an established market appeal. This means we can be confident that our members won’t struggle to market their crops.

Our relationships with the leading plant breeders often give us access to varieties three years before AHDB Recommendation. We have a dedicated seed team that can give members advice and support on the best crops for them to grow on their land.

Similarly, Openfield understands that each crop needs its own tailored nutrition package and our FACTS qualified Farm Business team can offer unbeatable advice on crop nutrition and legislative requirements – while appreciating the pressures of farming life.

In addition to ownership, the benefits of being an Openfield member are: a dedicated team working to provide marketing advice; advance payments; credit insurance; dedicated weekly market commentaries; access to specialist contracts; access to our own haulage fleet logistics and complementary moisture meter calibrations.

Members also have access to their own online portal called ‘Insight’. This allows farmers to view their grain sales, fertiliser and seed purchases and associated transactions including advance payment requests and final payments. They can also see scheduled deliveries, review movements and check weights and analysis. It’s also possible to track their collections live so that members can see when a collection is due on farm, thus saving them time.

Insight also includes the very popular online Seed Selector. This helps members select the most suitable seed varieties for their particular soil types and growing conditions.

Future perfect?

The impacts of Brexit and the uncertainty over tariff impositions for both import and export are still unknown. And, while many farmers focus on marketing their produce for the current year, to remain sustainable and deliver long term profit opportunities the use of forward commitment could be an area farmers look at more closely over the coming months.

AHDB has produced some excellent work on a range of grain marketing strategies that help manage some inherent risks. It doesn’t have to be complicated; every business should have a plan that is reviewed regularly, adapts to the face of changing market dynamics and rigorously manages its level of risk consistent with the risk profile of that individual business.

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