29 November 1996

Cereals assurance is on hold

A NATIONAL quality assurance scheme for cereals is unlikely to see the light of day until next year at the earliest.

At the show cereals committee chairman Peter Limb stressed that the NFU has no plans for an imminent launch of grain protocols.

However, it is establishing an industry-wide steering committee to develop ideas. BSE and other food scares are the driving force, noted NFU cereals adviser Jonathan Pettit.

"We want to pre-empt anything similar happening in the cereals sector." Producer standards have been developed by maltsters, millers and some co-operatives, he noted. The NFU now wants to avoid a plethora of different assurance schemes operating in the same market.

But there is no point in the NFU developing standards if they are not accepted by the whole industry, Mr Pettit added. Growers are the first, not the only stage in the food chain, he stressed.

A small NFU group has already examined some of the quality schemes already in place. From those it has developed its own ideas for on-farm assurance, covering the proper use of pesticides, soil analysis, crop storage and transport.

"We are progressing now by trying to get together a steering group to develop these ideas," said Mr Pettit. Members will include representatives from the production chain up to processors, and they will examine the wider issues involved including verification and cost, he said.n