28 June 2002

Growers sign up to ICM brand system

GROWERS across France are signing up to a system of produce assurance that encapsulates Intergrated Crop Management (ICM) and livestock production practices.

Branded "QualiTerre", the system verifies growers methods, not the quality of the produce, says Jean-Pascal Hopquin of the Picardie region Chamber of Agriculture, which initiated the programme two years ago.

This season it has been rolled out nationally and 1500 farmers are now signed up, with an average 150ha each. Initial verification costs the equivalent of £200/farm, with follow-up visits every 18 months to two years costing £100 a farm. Membership will not guarantee growers a premium, says Mr Hopquin, but may help gain access to certain markets, such as contracts to grow produce for baby food. But French law prevents the QualiTerre mark being carried through to the shop shelf, he notes.

Within 5-10 years the aim is to have most French farmers signed up, which will help them qualify for CAP payments should cross-compliance come in, he suggests.

Unlike the UKs LEAF, QualiTerre only concerns production methods, not other areas of farm management that may affect the environment, he adds. &#42