Special Edition: Organic Feed

Devenish considers contracts with certified organic cereal growers to address shortfall

© istock/fotokostic

Belfast-based, Devenish Nutrition, is evaluating whether to get certified organic growers in the UK and Ireland to supply cereals under contract, to ensure volumes match its business needs, as current demand for organic feed is outstripping supply in those markets.

It is also weighing up a similar arrangement, but with certified farmers further afield, to guarantee security of supply of organic protein raw materials, leveraging the international aspect of its business to do so, Richard Kennedy, CEO of the Devenish Nutrition group, told us.

Other organic feed operators in the UK have decried protein raw material supply constraints in recent months such as speciality poultry compounder, Humphrey Feeds, and organic dairy feed supplier, Mole Valley Farmers.

Devenish operates an organic feed business under the Hi-Peak Feeds brand, which makes feeds, blends, minerals and specialty products, and also runs a nutrition consultation service. Its mill, located in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, near Sheffield, produces 100% organic feed.

“The limiting factor in this [organic] market is the restricted quantity of raw materials available and the lack of skill sets and appetite for growing organic cereals in the UK and Ireland, despite the good return on investment that exists. Unfortunately, that is just something we have to deal with,” said Kennedy.

Up to now, he said supply issues have not been constraining growth for the Hi-Peak Feeds business: “We are very confident about the potential for expansion within the UK and Irish organic sector, and, it is a case of looking to safeguard raw material supply going forward. We have seen, recently, a number of UK dairy businesses making commitments to produce larger quantities of organic milk and cheese.”

Integrity of supply

Mindful of the environmental challenges that can arise around sourcing protein inputs, he stressed: “We would want to ensure the sustainability and integrity of such supply as such values underline everything we do.”

The CEO expressed some frustration about the restrictive nature of EU organic regulations in comparison to the less stringent North American equivalent: “There has been an explosion in demand within the US for organic food, in most countries globally, in fact. The knock-on effect of that growth in the US, though, is raw material organic feed exporters tend to favor the US market over the European one, given that it is less costly for them to meet the lower US organic feed specifications.”

Acquisitions ahead?

Kennedy said the integration of Vitrition into the Hi Peak Feed division has progressed well and has borne fruit: “That acquisition showed our appetite for and commitment to the organic feed business. Meanwhile, Vitrition’s customers have definitely benefited from the nimble nature and flexibility of Hi-Peak to deliver high quality organic feed.”

Vitrition was originally owned by Anpario but bought out by Devenish in 2015.

The CEO did not rule out further organic feed acquisitions in the British Isles. “We do have a number of acquisition deals in play at the moment, but none that concern organic feed. We are always on the look-out for new sites, though, as we continue to grow that business in the UK.”

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