The market for Scotland’s malting barley will be concentrated in fewer hands next year with the news that Simpsons Malt has purchased the grain merchanting business of WN Lindsay Ltd.
All four of WN Lindsay’s grain stores, at Stracathro in Angus, Sidlaw in Perthshire, Keith in Moray, and Gladsmuir in East Lothian, will be operated by Simpsons following the acquisition, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The storage at these sites amounts to more than 200,000 tonnes.
The announcement of the deal comes just months after Simpsons revealed plans to build a new state-of-the-art maltings in Speyside, which would, if planning permission is granted, add a third plant to the company’s other two sites at Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tivetshall St Margaret in Norfolk.
Simpsons Malt managing director Tim McCreath said WN Lindsay was an established, well-known family business with an excellent reputation in Scottish and UK agriculture.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to acquire its grain merchanting business,” he said.
“This combination provides a strategic opportunity to further secure our malting barley supply chain, as well as to increase our product and service offering to our growers.
“All suppliers within the cereal supply chain are increasingly accountable to the end user and even the consumer – particularly on product traceability and sustainability.
“As a pivotal buyer of malting barley and supplier of malt, we are ideally placed to play a leading role in improving supply chain management for the benefit of our growers, as well as our distilling and brewing customers.
“WN Lindsay’s people and infrastructure will complement our own and, together with our ongoing investment in business systems and processes, this acquisition will be a positive step for the cereal and malt supply chain.”
However the news took the farming industry by surprise, and cereals growers were cautious about the implications for their businesses.
NFU Scotland’s combinable crops chairman Willie Thomson said: “I have good relationships with both companies but this means one fewer buyer in the marketplace when we would welcome more.”
Scottish Quality Crops (SQC) chairman Andrew Moir added: “They are both well-respected companies and Lindsay’s services a lot of growers in the north-east.
“I have no doubt Simpsons will do a good job for their customers, but as a farmer it’s a concern that we will have just a handful of businesses left to deal with.
“On the positive side, maybe the sale will lead to future opportunities,” he said.
WN Lindsay managing director, Andrew Lindsay, said: “The combination of two fifth-generation family businesses with more than 300 years of history will enhance the supply chain across Scotland.
“I believe Simpsons Malt’s vision for the future aligns closely to that of our colleagues, suppliers and customers.”