Assurance – trump card for home grain grower

27 February 1998

Assurance – trump card for home grain grower

MAJOR grain producers like Canada may be able to supply the grain quality to meet the needs of buyers. But they cant offer on-farm assurance and that could become a marketing advantage for UK grain as users become more demanding.

"Canada has a very good system for checking physical grain quality after it leaves the farm and maintaining quality through the supply chain," explained Iain Johnston, winner of the FW/UAS/Stewarts Travel Scholarship last year.

But standards on the farm are left to the farmer entirely. Having seen Canadian grain production and marketing at first hand he felt the UKs farm assurance schemes gave growers a competitive advantage they needed to exploit.

"A lot of their grain is held in farm stores for up to 12 months, but there are no checks on those stores. And cereals are routinely sprayed with Roundup just a week before harvest. Nobody seems to mind."

But if such an advantage is to be exploited more growers must join UK schemes, he said. The grain trade must also play its part and standards must be policed, he added.

At the moment 486 growers have applied to join the Northern Ireland scheme. That is just 11% of the 3940 farms that grow cereals in the province. Although they represent 41% of the cereal area, there still needs to be a greater uptake, Mr Johnston said.

Feed compounders buying cheaper unassured grain from Ireland dont help, he stressed. "If this scheme is to work compounders need to source assured grain."

Livestock assurance schemes which demand fully assured feed will help in future, he suggested. Indeed, they will require smaller producers who feed grain to their own stock to join, so they can show they are feeding assured grain.

, he added. "But those farms need to be checked. If the public finds theyre not using assured grain it could do the livestock schemes a lot of harm."

Gloomy grain markets

dominated at last weeks

Ulster Arable Society

conference at Greenmount

College, Antrim. But

supermarket co- operation

and advantages from

assurance offered hope. Charles Abel reports

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