25 February 2000

Change-over to ID preservation will add value

FARMERS need to switch from meeting the assurance needs of buyers to offering identity preservation as an added value opportunity.

So says Stephen Smith, chief executive of Novartis Seeds and managing director of New Farm Crops.

"Traceability is a very negative system for farmers, it leads to accountability and above all to liability. As it operates today it is simply designed to identify faults, there is nothing positive in it for farmers," he says.

"All it has been devised for is to create an audit trail to avoid rejection – it is completely customer driven. I hate the word trace- ability, it is a negative consumer-led condition imposed on you, the producers, which you accept to avoid persecution rather than to make a profit."

What is needed instead is identity preservation, he argues. "That is a system which is pro-active from the producer to the consumer, it delivers security, quality, continuity and it is producer driven."

It is already used in Australia in the export of 22m tonnes of wheat, confined to just five types of Identity Preserved wheat.

"Farmers need to identify the value trait and add value, and then capture that value where the trait is exercised, and that means talking to the chain captain the brewer rather than the maltster, for example," says Mr Smith.

"As it stands farm assurance is not about adding profit it is about the avoidance of loss." &#42