Fingers on the pulse

Photo of David Matthews

[Photo: David Matthews: building a bridge to the consumer]

Understanding and exploiting your supply chain is vitally important to improving business opportunities for graingrowers - a fact that David Matthews, founder of the Wimmera Grain Company (WGC), knows only too well.

The successful value-added company he established with wife Sam 11 years ago specialises in buying, processing and exporting pulse crops. "At first our simplistic approach was "we grow it, so we should manage the entire supply chain". It was pretty naïve," he says. "We understand better now where our strengths lie."

As well as handling established crops such as lentils and chickpeas, WGC has recently developed new temperate crops like marrowfat and maple peas and irrigated crops like adzuki beans, because Mr Matthews believes it is "essential to broaden our production base".

WGC is sending its first container of marrowfat peas to Taiwan in a few weeks time. Its first commercial harvest of adzuki beans, grown on irrigated land in north central Victoria, will be shipped to Japan soon.

While exports are important, domestic trade is also another area WGC is targeting. "The domestic canning trade is still importing beans because Australia doesn"t produce enough. We are looking to address this. Some of our first marketing will be directed towards import replacement."

WGC also looks after supply-chain management of a specialty canola called Manola for Nutrihealth, based in Altona, Melbourne, which has the licence for these speciality varieties.

"They engage us to help with north-western Victorian crop production. We give the growers information about the varieties, do the required coordi­nating, organise harvest delivery and delivery to the crushers."

Mr Matthews" involvement with his own 1200-hectare farm ensures he stays intimately aware of grower issues. "I"m still involved with farming, especially during harvest and sowing time. It adds another strength to our business, compared to urban-based marketers.

"We have a real understanding of what"s happening on-farm. We use the slogan "Building a bridge between growers and consumers". We need to communicate customer needs to growers, but consumers also need to understand what growers are all about. We can help with that."

Mr Matthews says there are many opportunities for adding value to grains, as long as people understand the market and their strengths. "The only way everybody along the supply chain can improve returns is to increase the overall value to the consumer," he says. "If we cooperate with each other we can drive up the overall value and ensure that everybody increases their profit. That is central to our approach."

For more information: David Matthews, 03 5385 5344