2 April 1999

Confidence in exports

GRAIN with the ACCS tag should soon be much more marketable overseas. So says Alan Almond of British Cereal Exports.

"Being able to show that grain comes from ACCS-registered producers hasnt made a jot of difference last year or even this. But next season and in years to come I can see it being a very positive marketing tool. The more I see of it, the more convinced I am that it will be of value to the UK export trade."

To back that opinion Dr Almond offers three examples based on Scottish Quality Cereals experience. "They show that where a credible scheme is in place, and customers have confidence in it, they will respond.

"In the early 1990s Giampaolo Bernardi from Italian baker Barilla had not been impressed with the UK wheat deliveries he bought through importers. The blends were inconsistent and he wanted reassurance about the cropping and handling history.

"BCE invited him over to show how leading growers in south-west England had sound crop husbandry and good storage. He was so impressed with what he saw – clean stores, good spray records, pesticide passports and variety segregation – that he bought grain on the strength of it.

"The first shipment of 3000t of Riband in 94/95 was made up from wheat traceable from eight farms he had visited. You could say it was a forerunner of the ACCS approach. He was delighted with the biscuit making quality and the consistency within the cargo. Since then he has bought three to four shipments of Riband and Consort each year."

Aldo Beradi of Europa Brokers, speaking at the BCE/MSF forum in Worcester last month had this to say, notes Dr Almond. "A demanding biscuit maker like Barilla gives preference to British wheat. For a number of years Barilla has bought Riband/Consort on an identity preserved basis and always expressed satisfaction. There is always an explorer/leader opening new ways. Now we are starting to see the followers."

"Barilla is a bit like Marks & Spencer in the UK and is market leader in Italy," says Dr Almond. "So its move established the credibility of the UK with the rest of the Italian millers."

In 1996 a party of Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish buyers visited Scotland on a BCE/RHAS hosted programme. "They were taken to see the SQC-registered Coastal Grains co-op on the Scottish Borders. As a result several 1700t shipments of Riband wheat have since been sent to Finland for biscuit making.

"Scandinavians have a reputation for high levels of food hygiene and safety. The reassurance of SQC procedures convinced the Finnish millers that the UK was a suitable supplier.

"We won the order because the Scandinavians are very particular about the grain they use," adds CGs chief executive Terence Pardoe. "They were particularly impressed by our ability to segregate grain, our quality management systems and our traceability scheme."

In January this year Richard Rowlink of German maltster Weissheimer Malz spoke at a BCE forum in Inverness and took the opportunity to visit the nearby Highland Grain co-op, says Dr Almond. "He saw a set-up which is very committed to SQC and commented that the UK had totally underplayed the SQC/ACCS ideas abroad."

WM produces 650,000t of malt each year and is one of the top six maltsters in the world, he notes. "It has since bought 2400t of Chariot malting barley from the co-op. And looking beyond 2000 Mr Rowlink has indicated that he will be buying grain only from sources employing some sort crop assurance scheme.

"So its not just in the UK that crop assurance is paying off. Nothing on the Continent has been developed to the same extent, though it is now a matter of watch this space. The French have already taken full information on our schemes and are looking to see how they can adapt them for their own purposes. The Dutch are doing the same.

"I know it is not the best of years for any farmers to be forking out additional fees. But in the long term I believe assurance will be very much to the benefit of the industry and individual growers."

The schemes have been well flagged abroad, he adds. "We have planted the assurance seeds at overseas seminars. Now we are watching to see them grow."

[POINTS BOX]

Export assurance

* More overseas awareness.

* Increased trade.

* Similar moves abroad.

* UK head start?

EXPORTASSURANCE

&#8226 More overseas awareness.

&#8226 Increased trade.

&#8226 Similar moves abroad.

&#8226 UKhead start.