By Johann Tasker

Grain traders urged to join farm assurance register

GRAIN traders are being encouraged to join a new register of companies which adhere to farm assurance standards when marketing grain.

The register is being set up by the agricultural supply trade association, UKASTA, in response to criticism from farmers who say farm assurance schemes increase costs and show no financial return.

Many growers have refused to join the recently-launched Assured Combinable Crops Scheme (ACCS), claiming that any potential financial premium from doing is lost because few merchants market ACCS grain to its full potential.

“There is some truth in that but those who sign up to the register will have actually committed themselves to a future in the food production business,” said Jim Reed, director general of UKASTA.

Many farmers who have joined farm assurance schemes have found difficulty finding merchants who adhere to the same quality standards when marketing or transporting grain, Mr Reed admitted.

But the register will pinpoint those merchants who support farm assurance standards, he told farmers at the Cereals 98 event in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

“We want to identify traders who will work with you and who have a strategy which suits your farm,” Mr Reed said. “What matters is that both farmer and merchant can come up with a marketing plan which both are agreed on.”

Wrong crop? Not so, say eco-warriors

ENVIRONMENTALISTS have denied that protesters who destroyed a crop of genetically modified spring wheat made a mistake because it formed part of a non-commercial trial.

The protesters, who called themselves the “Lincolnshire Loppers”, uprooted the wheat early on Tuesday morning at the Cereals 98 event at Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

The crop was a demonstration of a non-commercial trial by the Institute of Arable Crop Research (IACR), rather than an exhibition by one of the large multinational life-science companies, which are also present at the event.

But Martin Shaw, spokesman for the Genetic Engineering Network, which monitors attacks on GM crops, said: “I dont think it was a mistake, but the crops that are being released by commercial companies are of greater concern.”

Professor Ben Milfin, director of the IACR, said the institute had planted the wheat to generate discussion about GM crops. He had no commercial interest in the project he said.

“We put this test plot out to show the public what GM wheats looks like,” he said. “I just regret that people have seen fit to destroy it.”

Two other plots of GM crops – oilseed rape – on display at Cereals 98 as part of the commercial exhibition were left untouched.

  • “Lincolnshire Loppers” hit GM wheat at Cereals 98, FWi, 9 June

    Grow for the market, farmers urged

    FARMERS looking to make more money from grain should grow for the market, visitors to the Cereals 98 event were told yesterday (10 June).

    Although markets are complex , there are really only four principal outlets open to cereal farmers, Jim Reed, director general of UKASTA told his audience in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

    “Its important to know which market youre growing for before the crop is even planted,” Mr Reed said, adding that growers should choose between growing for malting, milling, feed, or export.

    Twenty years ago the Common Agricultural Policy encouraged farmers to produce cereals without worrying about where it would be sold, he added.

    “Id strongly suggest that those day, if not already over, are certainly numbered,” Mr Reed said. “In the future, markets wont be supported by intervention.”

    Lower prices and the Agenda 2000 proposals for CAP reform mean that markets in the future will be much more volatile. As a result, good marketing is now vital in the quest for higher cereal profits.

    Tracking regional and world markets and gathering will help farmers forecast where prices are going and which of the four markets to grow for, Mr Reed said. But forward selling grain and the strategic use of the grain futures market will also iron out any extreme price movements.