The Finnish grain markets are nowadays integrated into the global agricultural markets. However, the actors in the grain value chain have very limited influence on the structure of the market prices or changes in the grain market. Therefore, actors in the grain sector must adjust their operations to respond better and more quickly to changes resulting from external influences. Actors from upstream until downstream of the grain value chain must have a closer collaboration to achieve cost savings, improve efficiency, and foster innovations.
Empowering grain farmers
Grain farmers should group together into bigger suppliers and reduce the amount of grain varieties supplied to processors, thus reducing the cost of production and processing. There is a short supply of organic oats and milling capacity for oat meal/flakes/bran, hence more incentives such as premium pricing and targeted agricultural subsidies are needed for organic oats production and additional investment to increase the milling capacity to produce value added products from grains.
Subsequently, high quality grain is needed to produce high quality food products, but the weather has a huge impact on grain quality. In a good year, even organic wheat can be top baking quality, but if there is lot of rain in August, there will be a shortage of good quality wheat for the baking industry and most of the wheat will go to the feed industry.
As a result, there is a need to reduce the fluctuation in grain quality for grain farmers due to the weather. Thus, seed breeding will be vital in mitigating the risks associated with grain production; and upstream actors such as input suppliers can also improve the competitiveness of the grain value chain by solving problems together with the grain farmers.
As a result, focussed consumer surveys are vital to capture information and knowledge to link the consumers who are far away downstream to the upstream processors, producers, and input suppliers in the grain value chain.
Marketing skills and joint actions are needed
It is a general opinion in Finland that Finns are rich in research and development skills, but lack in marketing skills and resources. Therefore, further downstream, food companies should cooperate in the export markets in order to combine resources and skills. Furthermore, Finnish companies are small on a global scale, thus closer collaboration is a natural step towards conquering foreign markets. However, the domestic market is the most important market because most of the grains are consumed in the domestic market, but it is not easy to link consumers with raw materials such as grains.
Consumers are often interested in the origin of animal products and animal welfare, but the connection with consumers is not as direct and strong for grain products. Of course, the origin of grain is important for organic products. If the products consist of many types of raw materials, more often the process or the processor is more interesting than the origin of the raw materials. For example beer, consumers are more interested in the special process of the brewery or the people behind the small breweries. As a result, focussed consumer surveys are vital to capture information and knowledge to link the consumers who are far away downstream to the upstream processors, producers, and input suppliers in the grain value chain.
The efforts to create high value added food products and develop a proactive and dynamic grain value chain will eventually produce more jobs in Finland.
The role of research
Research should assist in expanding the market for the grain sector. Instead of dividing the current market shares, a larger market for the grain sector will bring more benefits to all actors in the grain value chain with an efficient and competitive grain sector. Research should not only provide important knowledge for the research community and stakeholders such as policy makers and government administration, but also relevant and vital information to actors in the value chain for rational decision making.
The efforts to create high value added food products and develop a proactive and dynamic grain value chain will eventually produce more jobs in Finland, thus contributing to the Finnish government’s agenda to generate 100,000 new jobs in the future. If there are significant innovations from the grain value chain, the actors and stakeholders in the value chain should be able to capture the value and share the benefits among the actors within the value chain. Consequently, in the effort to enhance the sustainability and resilience of the grain value chain, the benefits should be reinvested back into the value chain to foster future innovations for the entire value chain.