An independent review of assurance in the combinable crops supply chain in the UK is to take place over the coming months.

The work has been commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) cereals and oilseeds sector.

The decision follows a recent meeting, involving presentations by both Red Tractor (Assured Food Standards) and the British Farming Union (BFU).

AHDB cereals and oilseeds chairperson, Tom Clarke said the purpose of the review will be to provide answers to the questions being raised by the BFU and other levy payers.

He said:

“As a first step, AHDB will commission independent experts to undertake a thorough examination to provide transparency and clarity of the quality, traceability, testing requirements and process for grain to enter all end-markets, outside of the existing UK assurance schemes. 

“In setting the terms of reference and in gathering evidence, we and the independent experts will consult with cereals and oilseeds levy payers and those who represent them.

“Some time will now be taken, to ensure a thorough and effective review takes place, with the findings expected to be shared with the industry by spring 2024 subject to appointing independent experts by the end of 2023,” Clarke added.

The combinable crops assurance review will take place at the same time as the recently announced consultation regarding the possible introduction of digital passports for combinable crops produced in Great Britain (GB).

Representatives from all parts of the cereals and oilseeds chain have been working together to create a business case.

This includes merchants and animal feed businesses, farmers and receivers. The leadership group has been supported by experts at AHDB.

Combinable crops consultation

A new business case sets out how a digital-based system could operate, replicating the purpose of the existing paper passports.

The envisaged electronic documentation will be initiated by farmers with input from hauliers before onward transmission to receivers.

There will be live updates of assurance status prior to the vehicle leaving farms, avoiding the risk of delay or rejection at the receiver’s site.

The system will be built with sufficient resilience and back-ups to avoid any undue downtime or faults.

The new processes will also enable a multi-directional flow of data between farmers and grain merchants.

This includes a commitment to the real-time return of information to those involved in the contractual chain.

The purpose of the consultation is to ensure industry needs are addressed, highlight gaps in the business case and to establish the level of support for the project.

If the majority vote in favour of supporting the proposal, the leadership group would approach the AHDB cereals and oilseeds council to discuss funding options.