Audits open the door to premium markets

The prospect of a LEAF audit prompted Lincs producer Ian Grant to turn to the Farmacy service, then in its infancy, a year ago.

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With brother Stuart he grows about 1000ha (2500 acres) of arable crops, including potatoes, vining peas, onions and calabrese at Bishops Farm, Sibsey Northlands.

“We joined Tesco’s Nature’s Choice about 12 years ago, and I quite enjoyed it when it still offered us a premium.”

Soon afterwards the farm embraced the Assured Produce and Assured Combinable Crops schemes.

But it was the attraction of a premium for 500t of Waitrose pre-pack potatoes sold through Solanum under the LEAF Marque that encouraged him to contact Mr Speller.

“We needed to be registered by January 2005, and felt we needed assistance to get up to date, so we approached him around October last year.”

The result was a manual that helped him pass the audit first time in a fraction of the time anticipated.

“David sorted it all out and I’m a lot more confident that I’m up to speed with everything.

I was also impressed with it as value for money.”

“It certainly saves time because the information is all presented in the way the auditor wants to see it,” says Mr Speller.

For a four-scheme assessment the cost of the service is 750-800/yr.

A simple ACCS back-up exercise might be as little 250-300, depending on the travelling distance involved, he explains.

The work usually involves one “fairly long intensive day” and assuming inspection takes only one more it relieves the client of an often-heavy burden.

“It means the grower doesn’t have to think about it for 363 days.”

Mr Grant foresees the service saving yet more time as post CAP reform requirements begin to bite.

“There’s a lot of cross-compliance coming in like soil management plans which all take up management time.

It all has to be written down, and that’s where we as farmers need help.”

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