Tim Davies' experience in both agriculture and food industries helped
persuade Carr's Milling Industries to poach the Openfield boss as chief executive, at a
tricky time for millers after a poor UK wheat harvest.
Carr's considered more than 100 people to succeed Chris Holmes
as chief executive, including chief operating officers and chief executives of
plcs, and candidates with double firsts from Cambridge or Oxford universities.
But the flour-to-livestock nutrients group settled on Mr Davies in part thanks to his
qualities in "self-motivation", and also being a "team player with a knowledge
of agriculture and the major food players on the flour side".
Openfield, the UK's biggest cereals co-operative, of which Mr
Davies has been group managing director since its formation three years ago, handles
some 4.6m tonnes of grain a year, passed to buyers including domestic millers,
besides to foreign buyers, as in a landmark US deal last year.
Mr Davies' appointment comes at a tricky time for UK
millers, facing a domestic crop which has disappointed on both quality and
quantity, following rains which landed the country with its worst summer in a century
and have lingered to disrupt autumn plantings.
The shortfall is prompting many users to turn to foreign
supplies, set to turn the UK into a net importer for the first time in more
than a decade.
"Some analysts now expect over 2m tonnes of wheat to be
brought in this season, far outweighing the tonnage which will be exported,"
traders at a major European commodities house said.
And the situation may be more acute by the time Mr Davies
takes his post at Carr's in March.
"Although UK millers are busily importing German wheat at
the moment, the supply is by no means inexhaustible and other countries,
especially in North Africa, will be buying it as well," the traders said.
"Therefore, once we get into the spring and summer, the
millers may have to look further afield to the US, South America or Australia
to find what they need."
Mr Holmes, 61, said that the difficulty UK millers were having in
creating flour from the poor-quality domestic crop meant the "overcapacity in the
UK milling industry has disappeared".
Many mills are reported to be working around the clock.
He also restated the support he had received from major
shareholders for his move from chief executive to chairman, and initially
executive chairman, a switch which contravenes best practice as laid down by UK
corporate governance guidelines.
Such a move, while not uncommon among UK companies, is
viewed as a potential hazard in that it could leave the new chief executive
under the shadow of the old one.
Mr Holmes told Agrimoney.com: "I do not think I would take a
drop in salary if I wanted to do the same job" as he had done since being appointed
chief executive in 1994.
Mr Davies "has got to make his own make his own mark, and
that is what he will do.
"If I am getting in his way, he is the type of person who
will say so. I think we will be a great team."