Soil to end-user assurance hope

4 June 1999

Soil to end-user assurance hope

A WHOLE farm assurance scheme which pays healthy premiums is gaining ground in Europe and could soon appear in the UK.

The scheme, which aims to conserve the environment while promoting high output stock and arable farming, offers traceability of produce from soil to end-user, says Jean-Charles de Viron, director of Luxembourg-based Brora Benelux, the company behind the scheme.

It is very much market-led, he adds. "Buyers tell us what they want and we help farmers to produce it. The result is a food safety contract for which prices are agreed at the start of the season."

Buyers, including supermarkets, are willing to pay good premiums, he adds.

Leading French retailer Carre-four and miller and maltster Soufflet are strong supporters, says Mr de Viron.

Wheat premiums typically vary from £16 to £50/ha, he says. The scheme costs about £13/ha to join, and then £2.50/ha a year after that.

The initial cost could be a hurdle, Mr de Viron admits. But for this, the farmer gets a whole farm audit including state-of-the-art GPS yield measurements, soil sampling and fertiliser application, and an environmental report, he adds. Audits are updated every three years.

Mr de Viron predicts rapid growth this year. France already has 37,000ha in the scheme, and this could rise to 100,000ha this year, he says. Belgium should increase its area five-fold to 5000ha in the same period, matching that of Luxembourg.

"We are also looking at Germany and Holland," he adds. "And, given the size of UK farms, it could take off very fast there too." &#42

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