£40m upgrade for CF’s Billingham plant

Fertiliser manufacturer CF Fertilisers has announced a £40 million investment in the Billingham ammonium nitrate (AN) fertiliser manufacturing complex on Teesside.  2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the former Grange Farm being chosen by the government to build the UK’s first AN plant, which came on stream in 1923.

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CF says the investment is the biggest at the site for 20 years, and follows two successive years of record output from the facility. The work will take two years to compete. It includes a £15.75m upgrade and rationalisation of Billingham’s high voltage electricity distribution network, with new switchgear for the ammonia plant and upgraded ones for the fertiliser production units.

“The new high voltage network will be ‘state of the art’ with a lifespan in excess of 40 years giving us significant power security for future needs and making for more efficient production,” says CF’s Billingham site manager Keith Brudenell.

At the same time, a £15.5m upgrade of the ammonia reforming plant will extend its life by 20 years. “The replacement of the steam reforming equipment and gas transmission piping on the high temperature part of the plant should be completed by 2020,” notes Mr Brudenell. There will be a further £8m expenditure in replacing equipment in one of the acid plants to improve reliability as demand grows.

“Since CF Industries took a 100% holding in the site in 2015, demand has grown considerably and we are now developing the plant to keep pace with this and meet the challenges of the future,” he continues. “We are now the only company manufacturing high quality AN in the UK, with our iconic blue bags a feature on farms up and down the country. All in all, this is a real vote of confidence in the Billingham site and its team, and for industrial chemicals on Teesside in general.”

Mr Brudenell also noted that the company had achieved its best safety record ever in 2017 at Billingham.  “At our Billingham and Ince, Cheshire, production facilities we have now recorded a million hours of production accident-free at each site,” he concluded.


Posted on March 21, 2018 and filed under Company News, Fertilisers.

Five year funding for wheat genetics R&D

Defra is to provide £1.7 million in funding for the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN). The money will support another five years of research and development by WGIN, and as the contract is back-dated to the beginning of February, it will dove tail with the end of the third phase of the Network.

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Led by Rothamsted Research, WGIN was founded in 2003. It has brought together a diverse range of wheat researchers, development specialists, agricultural advisers and breeders, and will now include farmers to help devise better varieties of the UK’s top cereal crop. The new contract includes an alliance with the AHDB, aimed at strengthening direct links to farmers. Defra supports another three genetic improvement networks: OREGIN for oil seed rape, in which Rothamsted is also a partner; VeGIN for brassicas, leafy salads, onions and carrots and PCGIN for pulses. The four networks will be more interconnected in future; Andy Cuthbertson, a senior crop scientist at Defra is to start this new activity.

Kim Hammond-Kosack, a cereals specialist at Rothamsted Research is WGIN’s leader and cofounder. “WGIN-4 has been fully accepted by Defra, with 1.5% more funding than WGIN-3” says Dr Hammond-Kosack. “This is all exceptionally good news. Let’s hope years 15 to 20 of WGIN go as well as the first 15 years.

“While industry breeding programmes tend to focus on introducing new crop varieties with greater yields and improved quality, WGIN focuses on new traits with characteristics that should improve crop resilience and sustainability,” explains Dr Hammond-Kosack. “We explore such factors as improved responses to abiotic and biotic stress, efficiencies in the use of nutrients and canopy architecture,” she adds.

WGIN staged its 15th annual stakeholders’ meeting in November last year, at which a new five-year programme, Designing Future Wheat, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, was introduced.

Sexed semen drives Genus growth in first half

Cattle and pig genetics specialist Genus has reported a 43% increase in profitability on 7% higher sales in the first half of its financial year, with strong cattle product cattle product performance.

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The UK multinational made an operating profit of £14.3 million on revenues of £238.6m in the six months to December 31st 2017, compared to £10m and £222.1m in the same period of the previous year.

The Genus ABS bovine division saw revenue growth of 13%, with improved global dairy market conditions and the successful launch of the Sexcel proprietary sexed cattle genetics product. Overall cattle genetics volumes were 8% higher, with a 32% increase in sexed semen products and a 35% rise in IVB embryos. Genus is working with Geno in Norway and two Indian companies to use the sexing technology.

PIC, the pig division, had sales growth of 3%, including 8% higher royalty revenues in all market regions, especially in Europe Porcine product volumes were up by 5%, particularly in Europe and Latin America, but the return of pig prices to a more normal level reduced profits in China.

Results from the Irish breeding company Hermitage, acquired in February 2017, were in line with expectations. Genus has signed a strategic agreement with Danish independent Møllevang Genetics effective from July 2018.

The Group has increased its investment in gene editing R&D, and has seen the first batches of founder gene-edited pigs born under its PRRSv resistance development programme.

 “Genus performed strongly in the first half of the 2018 fiscal year and made substantial strategic progress,” says chief executive Karim Bitar.  “The launch of Sexcel, our proprietary innovative sexed genetics product, has been well received by customers and early indications of its performance in the field are encouraging.

“PIC continued to perform well, despite market headwinds in China, and we continued to strengthen its presence in Europe through the acquisition and partnership with Hermitage.”

PR charter for rdp’s Sarah Riley

Sarah Riley, account director at the rdp farming and food PR agency based in Gloucestershire has achieved Chartered PR Practitioner (Chart.PR) status. The award follows a rigorous assessment by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in London this week.

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Chartered status is the highest standard of professional excellence and integrity in public relations - Sarah joins a community of just 200 Chartered Practitioners across the UK.

“I’m honoured to have been awarded Chartered Practitioner status,” she says. “For me, it is formal recognition that I operate to the highest professional standards, providing expert strategic counsel and delivering robust, credible and transparent communications with integrity. It was a demanding assessment but most importantly it involves my continuing commitment to CPD and maintaining this standard going forward.”

Posted on March 21, 2018 and filed under People.

UK pulse market firms

As we move into the last third of the crop marketing year, pulse values are starting to firm as other protein crop price rises increase demand. 

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“The UK feed market for beans is picking up as soya and rape meal values rise and significant feed compounders are looking to cover their summer requirements from beans as a good quality alternative,” comments Roger Vickers, chief executive of the Processors & Growers Research  Organisation (PGRO).

“The human consumption bean export market stalled some weeks ago with few, if any, sellers and buyers focussed on the Australian crop and the remnants of the Baltic harvest. This market rarely looks far forwards, and with Ramadan requirements covered, there has been little interest in the UK as a source. There are, however, now slow signs of returning interest in what UK sellers can offer for May and June shipments.

“Despite the wintry conditions, some growers have begun preparing land for spring sowing. The trade is still uncertain of the likely pulse area to be sown. Spring bean seed is in demand - but with the perception that less seed crops were realised in 2018, seed availability may be no clear indication of likely sowings.”

British Edible Pulse Association president Franek Smith adds that increased demand for feed beans, as the cost of alternatives rises, has seen values harden to between £150-155/tonne ex farm, depending on the region and distance to the end user. “Vegetable protein is in demand, with soya up £50/tonne over the last 6 weeks - currently at around £340/tonne - and rapemeal now almost at £190/tonne. If this trend carries on, it will continue to stimulate compounder interest in UK feed beans.”

Turning to feed bean exports Mr Smith says these are slowing, but “interest remains, and there continues to be a succession of boats leaving with skinned beans for the fish feed market”.

Forward values for new crop beans are running at some £155-160/tonne ex-farm, based on a November feed wheat futures price of £135-140/tonne, he advises.

Human consumption quality crops are very limited at the moment, but the value of anything available could be up to £170/tonne ex- farm. New crop could attract up to £20/tonne more, but with few forward buyers.

Mr Smith says the combining pea market “lacks excitement”. There are plentiful pale samples of marrowfat peas, making the market “somewhat stagnant”. The trade is expecting a fall in marrowfat plantings for 2018, despite contracts on offer for £240-250/tonne. This points to even higher prices in 2019 as stocks are used up.

Best quality large blue peas, where available, can fetch up to £240/tonne ex-farm, with micronising quality at £165/tonne ex-farm upwards. Canning grades are oversupplied and unlikely to command more than £165/tonne ex-farm. With little domestic or export demand for yellow peas, values are also around £165/tonne, but any growers are advised to only grow under contract.

Peas for the feed market will trade at a discount to feed beans.

Posted on March 19, 2018 and filed under Crops, Feed, Grain Trading.

DLF grows its presence in Poland

Danish multinational forage crop specialist DLF has established a new subsidiary in Poland, in order to build on its growing market share in that country.


The Polish subsidiary has a sales office at Ilawa, 150 km southeast of Gdansk, with a staff of seven dedicated to selling DLF clover and grass seed varieties. The office is shared with eight employees dedicated to the MariboHilleshög's sugar beet varieties acquired by DLF from Syngenta in October last year.

 "With a local DLF sales team lead by Pawel Zakrzewski, who is well-known in the grass seed industry, we have established a good platform  from which to increase our presence and strengthen our own brands in the Polish market," says Søren Halbye, chief commercial officer at DLF.

"We are well in the process of strengthening our position in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland is a very interesting market for us as the largest forage and turf seed market in Eastern Europe, and with good growth rates in the national economy. With our  strong plant breeding and product range across clover and grass seeds, and a more structured approach to the market, I expect to increase our market share significantly," states Mr Halbye.

DLF will service the Polish seed market through three channels – its German company will focus on wholesale customers; the UK company will sell turf seed to a major international retail chain in Poland, while the new Polish company will primarily serve agricultural customers.


Posted on March 19, 2018 and filed under Company News, Seeds.

I’Anson adds to sales team

I’Anson Bros, the North Yorkshire-based independent feed manufacturer, has appointed Karen Winspear to a sales role responsible for promoting the company’s products, visiting and advising customers, attending agricultural shows and markets. 

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From a Wensleydale family livestock farming background, Ms Winspear joins from the Tithebarn mineral supplier where she was a sales representative.

“Karen’s sales experience and farming background will be invaluable to the company,” says I’Anson Bros managing director Chris I’Anson. “Strengthening our team is an important part of our continued growth. Having staff with a wealth of knowledge within the agricultural industry and building a relationship with local farmers are both areas which I have no doubt Karen will excel in.”

Ms Winspear adds: “I am very passionate about agriculture and working for a company like I’Anson Bros will allow me to help farmers get the best out of their livestock.”

Posted on March 19, 2018 and filed under Feed, People.

Appeal Court backs ownership of agchem R&D trials data

A recent Appeal Court decision should benefit agrochemical companies carrying out R&D, as it confirms that the costs they incur in generating specific data to support the authorisation and re-authorisation of their products means the data belongs to them and is protected.