26 February 1999

ASSURED GRAIN AREA GROWS

Assured grain production is

growing apace.

Edward Long provides an

update from the Assured

Combinable Crops Scheme

verifier Checkmate

International and visits one

reluctant grower to find out

why he eventually joined

AT the end of its first year the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme had 5081 registered members in England and Wales farming 1m hectares (2.47m acres) and producing over 7m tonnes of grain.

With a further 2m tonnes covered by the Scottish Quality Cereals scheme, over half of UK grain marketed was assured in 1998.

And with over 1200 applications to join the scheme received by early January, the ACCS organisers are confident registrations will double in 1999.

"Only a small percentage of farmers visited by a verifier last year have not yet completed the required rectifications. But they are soon expected to do so," says ACCS eastern region manager Robin Pirie.

"There is no such thing as failure. Our job is to help a farmer gain registration not dictate what is done. Meeting our needs is about common sense and good agricultural practice. Visits often result in 20 to 30 points needing rectification, most are minor omissions which are soon put right."

Grain producers are subject to the Food Safety Act, which offers few defences if anything goes wrong. But one is due diligence, which can be proved through adequate records. Hence the routine request from verifiers for records.

Rodent control

These should cover pesticide and fertiliser use, sprayer and spreader calibration and maintenance, rodent control and store management. The most common reason for a verifier putting a cross on the assessment report is inadequate record keeping, Mr Pirie stresses.

Lights come a close second because protection of glass, which is a potential contaminant, is often overlooked, windows are also frequently missed. Other common reasons for a cross include lack of calibrated store monitoring equipment, and non labelling of grain. A simple note of the variety and field of origin should be attached to each bulk lot.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the schemes requirements. Sprayers do not need an "MOT" check, windspeed metres are not essential and a store does not have to be dedicated to grain."

But store hygiene is vital. Buildings must be thoroughly cleaned and power washed and sanitised if they previously housed livestock. A check for insect infestation should be made pre-harvest and insecticide used if necessary. Stores must be bird-proof and rodent-free. Netting along eaves and around doors and windows should ensure birds cannot get in.

"After spending a lot of money growing and harvesting a crop it needs looking after properly," Mr Pirie says. "Under the scheme it must be monitored regularly and moisture meters and temperature probes must be available."