Warburtons has announced it will cease its milling wheat contract with Openfield from July 2022 and move forward with Frontier Agriculture, following an internal review of its wheat supply chain.
In a joint letter to producers seen by Farmers Guardian, Warburtons revealed it would ‘move its UK wheat supply to Frontier Agriculture from the end of harvest year 2021 (July 2022)’ in order to support ‘changes to its milling supply chain’.
David Mathias, cereals director at Warburtons, said: “As our contract with Openfield continues until July 2022, there will be no immediate changes to how we operate.”
The decision means the last crop under the existing relationship will be harvest 2021.
Disappointed with the decision, Openfield, who has supplied Warburtons for 20 years, said there was ‘no enmity’ between the companies and respected their decision to ‘manage contractual agreements to suit their business needs’.
Richard Jenner, member services director at Openfield, said: “There are two full seasons ahead before these changes come into effect, [and] together Warburtons and Openfield remain committed to execute and manage all areas of the existing contract in a professional manner.”
Mr Mathias added the change in supply contract did not alter Warburton’s commitment to UK agriculture.
He added: “Even after 2022, we will continue to source more than half our wheat from UK farms and UK wheat growing will play a fundamental part of our long-term business plans.”
Growers took to social media to express their disappointment about the news, with some consumers vowing to boycott the bakery about its decision.
Olly Harrison, an arable farmer from Lancashire, tweeted: "I am not going to lie but I am disappointed that a family run British company Warburtons after 20 odd years of buying its wheat through a farmer co-operative Openfield has decided [to] ditch them for a US owned multinational that’s all for its shareholders."