AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LATHAM

 

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John Latham,

 

John discusses how a group of 350 arable farmers in East Anglia have built a well invested and professionally run central storage business and formed effective supply chain partnerships.

EFFP: Camgrain set out to achieve something unique: the organisation and alignment of farmers through a large well invested and professionally run central storage facility on a scale that allowed you to build effective supply chain partnerships that extend, in some cases, to retail level. Why did you choose this direction for the business and how important has farmer ownership and commitment been to achieving that?

JL: It has always been a deliberate strategy to build our ownership stake in the supply chain because we felt it was the best way to benefitt our members. The Camgrain business started in 1983 as an off-farm storage solution with about 15,000 tonnes capacity and it has since grown year on year to 2009 where we now store around 250,000 tonnes of combinable crops, which is supported by 350 members. As we grew we reached a critical size where we are able to act as a dedicated sole supplier in a closed loop supply chain. That also came at a time when the consumer became more interested in where their food comes from and they therefore put pressure on retailers and manufacturers to demonstrate best provenance. We were both large enough to meet the level of demand and able to give the customer the opportunity to demonstrate best provenance; all of a sudden we were able to work with the supply chain and be part of it, rather than just being a supplier to it. Being just an off farm storage solution has limited benefits for our customers so as we grew in size our capability to dry, segregate and blend our members’ grain to specification grew as well. This is something that has far greater benefit to our customers enabling us all to drive costs, waste and duplication out of the supply chain. Farmer ownership and commitment was essential in all of this. Our board of directors worked with EFFP to develop and drive the strategy and the investment came from the members’.

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