17 November 2000

Be assured – or you will struggle to find a buyer

Has assured grain finally

found its feet in the market-

place? Judging by the

increasingly limited number

of outlets taking unassured

crop and the discounts they

offer the answer is yes.

Amanda Dunn takes a

closer look

MOVES by millers to fully embrace quality assured grain mean homes for non-assured crops for human consumption are now becoming increasingly rare, with discounts of up to £7/t now being reported for unassured crop.

"Assurance is a fact of life and it is here to stay," says ACCS chairman, Jonathan Tipples. "We have been talking to the industry since the start of ACCS and we are seeing greater demand for assurance on cereals. It is almost a job to find a major buyer not looking for those assurances. Effectively, no miller will have it unless it is assured."

For those farmers who are not yet assured there are still homes available, although limited and discounted, Mr Tipples confirms. "Discounts of £3-£5/t are typical, but I have heard of up to £7/t for milling wheat, or next to nothing when closer to ports."

SQC director and NFU combineable crops committee chairman, Douglas Morrison, confirms a similar demand in Scotland. "For malting barley there is very nearly a total requirement for SQC barley for contract. And while milling wheat is not the largest market for Scottish cereals, the position is certainly building to that level.

"We have a mill in Edinburgh that is a quality mill supplying quality outlets. It takes nothing but assured grain."

Mr Tipples confirms that millers are still importing. But this is both selective and not in preference to domestic grain, he says.

"There is an amount of milling wheat that comes into this country that is a quality which we cannot produce. Farmers argue that millers could use more Hereward or Malacca, but that simply is not the case. We cannot produce that quality of protein and will always buy some North American wheat for better quality bread."

Alex Waugh of Nabim, the millers association, believes most millers are only sourcing assured grain. "It is up to the millers to decide what they want to do, but from September most have decided to take in only assured grain."

His comments are confirmed by RHMs wheat director, Peter Jones. "We are buying 100% ACCS grain, that is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.4m tonnes of grain each year."

His position is echoed by Allied Mills wheat director, Mark Hughes. "We buy in excess of 1m tonnes each year. All our UK wheat, including feed wheat, is assured. We are also trying to encourage reeling out of assurance schemes to the Continent.

"We import 250,000t of French wheat for baguette production. But this is all coming from one specific source," says Mr Hughes. Similarly, Canadian and US wheat comes in under government certification schemes.

"The vast majority of wheat we use is UK wheat. We use it where we can and dont use non-UK wheat in preference. Assurance of some sort is here to stay."

Way of the world… Assured grain is fast becoming the standard. Expect discounts of up to £7/t for unassured produce, warn commentators.

Subscriptions on the way down

The good news for growers is that quality assurance subscriptions are set to fall. "This year we have seen the average farmers subscription reduce by 20-33%," says Mr Tipples.

"We hope to see it go down further next year as more schemes are embraced."

SQCs Douglas Morrison also confirms that in addition to the expected rebate, it anticipates a reduction in subscriptions cost next year, as membership becomes more steady. "This is good news for those who have made the effort to join schemes."