20 February 1998

Assurance for all?

A SINGLE quality assurance scheme to cover combinable crops, potatoes, field vegetables and horticultural crops is on the cards, saving growers time and money.

"Potato and cereal growers currently need to sign up to both the Assured Produce and the Assured Combinable Crops schemes," Adrian Wallbridge, technical manager of verifiers Checkmate International, told a recent Potatoes for Profit meeting organised by Wisbech-based distributor &#42 L Hutchinson.

"There is no point in two verifiers looking at the same thing on one farm. Whole farm auditing makes sense and we will encourage it. The quicker it happens, the better. But for this seasons crop, there will be two schemes."

Cost of the Assured Produce scheme, which covers 41 mainly vegetable crops, is £275 a year for larger producers. The ACC scheme costs up to £350 for the first two years, then £350/year afterwards.

More than 1000 of the 7100 growers who were sent Assured Produce packs before Christmas had returned self-audit questionnaires and are now awaiting verification, said Mr Wallbridge.

"I am quite confident we will get to 6000 registered growers this season."

Provided growers meet the health and safety, statutory and integrated crop management standards covered by the scheme they will receive full membership. Otherwise a repeat visit may be needed. "It will be at minimal cost," said Mr Wallbridge.