29 March 2002

Sampling project aims to end grain disputes

By Tom Allen-Stevens

BETTER grain sampling and analysis to avoid the growing problem of disputes between growers and buyers is the aim of a new £1.1m training project secured by the HGCA.

The two-year project is 75% funded by the Treasury under the governments Invest to Save budget, the HGCA and industry financing the balance.

The HGCAs Cereals Liaison Group, which includes farming organisations and grain end users, will oversee the project. Main aim is to agree a definitive guide to grain sampling, train growers to improve on-farm sampling and check analytical labs.

HGCA marketing director Alastair Dickie believes sampling issues cost the cereal industry £2.5m per year. "The whole issue of post-harvest sampling is problematic. Poor sampling would explain a significant part of the difficulties growers have with rejections and deductions."

Winter training sessions will encourage growers to adopt the new industry-wide protocols for sampling grain on farm, with the emphasis on farmers taking representative samples as grain goes into store.

Grain lab practices will also be scrutinised, to ensure consistent standards. "Were not looking to re-invent the wheel. We want to ensure all labs are working to a standard growers can recognise and have faith in," says Mr Dickie.

NFU cereals committee chairman Richard Butler welcomes the move. "We believe this will bring a quantum improvement in the way grain is traded.

"In todays trading climate with wafer-thin margins, its absolutely disastrous if you suffer a rejection. To have an accurate idea of whats in the store will empower the farmer. The current situation, where you have four or five firms competing to send in samplers, is confusing to say the least."

Banks Cargill grain director Richard Whitlock believes the trade had done much to improve analysis through ring-testing and training under the Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC).

But growers could do more, he adds. "Its not just the sampling at harvest but the on-going monitoring that needs attention on farms. Rejections not only cost a lot, but sour the relationship between merchant, processor, end user and grower."

But Assured Combinable Crops southern region manager Paul Calver wonders why new guidelines are needed. "The Intervention Board has already laid down a definitive Code of Practice for sampling grain. The HGCA effectively administered those guidelines when they were set up." &#42


Objective Deadline Cost (£)

Agree sampling/analysis protocols July 2002 65,000

Guides produced Sept 2002 70,000

Training for 6000 growers Sept 2002 – Mar 2003 300,000

Training for labs Sept 2002 – Mar 2003 95,000

Register of labs Mar 2003 60,000

On-going training and certification 2003/4 415,000

Extend to survey/food safety use 2003/4 40,000

Project management 2002/4 55,000

TOTAL 1,100,000

(Funding: 75% Treasury, 25% HGCA and industry)

&#8226 Sample grain as store is loaded.

&#8226 If grain needs drying, sample as it leaves drier.

&#8226 As a guide, take one cup of grain per trailer and put in a bucket.

&#8226 Aim for 5kg sample per 100t, mix thoroughly and draw 1kg sample from that.

&#8226 For flat stores, where grain is conditioned in-situ, use grain spear to sample full depth of heap.

&#8226 Note where grain from headlands or variable fields is in store and bear in mind when sampling and out-loading.

Shedding new light on grain sampling and analysis. The HGCAs new £1.1m project aims to end acrimonious and costly rejections and deductions in the grain trade.