Losses in store are
hard to bear at any
time, none more so
than when wheat is
at £70/t. In this
special feature, we
sampling, filling and
storing grain on the
farm. But first we
take a look at what
the trade are doing
to maintain their
part of the storage
chain. Edited by
By Andrew Swallow
THE Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC) aims to ensure the integrity of farm assured grain is carried through to the first processor.
Standards for haulage, storage and analysis are all equal or tighter than farm assurance standards, according to Allied Grains group managing director Ian Douglas. "And so they should be, as we are a step closer to the consumer," he stresses.
In the Anglia region, the firm is two-thirds of the way to full accreditation. Haulage and storage standards were verified last December and laboratories will be included in this years check to complete the audit.
Independent audit companies carry out annual verification visits. All must operate to UK Audit Standards (UKAS) in some field, with British Standards Institute or International Standards Organis-ation (BSI/ISO) audit experience.
"These are full-time, professionally trained auditors not just someone doing this as a retirement or part-time job. They wont take yes or no for an answer but want to see proof for themselves. You cant pull the wool over their eyes," says Chris Baldwin, managing director for Allieds Anglia region.
Operations manager David Gray echoes that. He is responsible for the 50,000t of storage at Diss, plus 30,000t at nearby Eye and 24,000t north of Norwich at Aylsham.
"For TASCC we have to reach 100% compliance, thats tighter than any of the individual brewers or maltsters standards. There are a lot of points in the codes which one could easily fall down on."
Getting the stores at Diss, some of which are 30 years old, up to TASCC standards has required substantial investment around the site.
Roller doors have replaced wooden shuttering on entrances to three flat floor stores, and metal plates fitted to exclude vermin from underfloor conveyor passages. Wooden doors and panels have had protective metal sheets fitted to stop rats or mice gnawing their way in.
That alone cost £1200, and a steel fence to prevent rats getting onto the site from a neighbouring railway line set the company back £12,000.
Intake areas, with enormous open fronts to allow 25t lorries to tip, have proved a particular problem. A short-term solution of rubber matting over the intake pits to keep pigeons and rodents out satisfied the verifier. But in the long-term roller doors will be needed here too.
"I have just costed that out and it will come to £35,000. And the rubber mats for here and the other stores came to £1000," says Mr Gray.
No stores at Diss are used to house livestock, but two sheds at the end of the yard are used to store beet-pulp. If they were to be brought into grain storage they would have to go through the same rigorous cleaning procedure as a livestock store. The whole of the inside of the building would be cleaned and treated with a food grade, non phenolic sanitiser. Had livestock been housed then a TASCC or environmental health inspection would be compulsory before grain could be stored.
Whilst for some farmers and end users the storage section of TASCC may be an irrelevance as their grain never goes near an intermediarys store, the haulage code involves everybody.
Only hauliers on a firms approved list should be used. To get on that list, initially a haulier must sign a declaration stating they agree to comply to the UKASTA code of practice for road haulage. But verifiers require merchants to check up on that, says John Potter, transport co-ordinator at Diss.
"We audit hauliers ourselves once a year to check they are doing what they say." A visit is paid to regular hauliers in the region, or for occasional operators located outside the region an Allied self-audit form is sent out for completion as an interim measure. If the haulier has subbed out loads to another haulier, then Allied expect to see a signed code of practice from that haulier at the audit.
On farm, when a vehicle arrives, under the code the farmer or worker loading it is entitled to see what the previous three loads were, and should inspect the trailer inside to check it is fit to carry grain, stresses Mr Potter. If any of the loads have been materials on the sensitive goods list, such as coal or fertiliser, then appropriate cleaning should be recorded on the drivers ticket.
Carriage of any substance on the excluded list, such as manures, poultry litter or scrap metal, renders a trailer body unfit to carry grain for good. To ensure trailers are traceable when separated from their usual tractor unit, they must have a clearly displayed identification number. Chassis numbers are not accepted.
"If the farmer thinks the vehicle doesnt comply in any way, then he should contact us," he adds.
With over 90 merchants and co-operatives registered under the TASCC scheme, Mr Douglas sees no restriction on trade for farmers insisting on merchants being TASCC accredited. "And if a merchant isnt TASCC assured then the farmer should be asking why not – is his store infested?"
Grain laboratory manager Colin Chenery is hopeful that the Allied Diss, Eye and Aylsham labs he oversees will hit TASCC standards first time in December. They have operated to ISO9002 quality standards for the past seven years, so many of the demands of TASCC are being met already, he says. All staff, including seasonal workers, must be adequately trained, and their training recorded. Machines must be calibrated to relevant ISO/BSI or trade equivalent reference methods at least as frequently as recommended by the equipment manufacturers. Target tolerances must be set and adhered to and every machine has to have a unique identification number. Ring testing, whilst not compulsory, is recommended. "There are other ways to ensure accuracy. Ring tests are not suitable for tests such as moisture or germination and with 4-500 labs in the TASCC scheme providing a uniform sample would be impractical. Having said that we are involved with ring tests for nitrogen and protein," he says.
Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC) standards are equal or tighter than farm assurance requirements, say Allied Grain managing director Ian Douglas (left) and Anglian region MD Chris Baldwin.