RICHARD BARLOW pens this week’s grower’s column, WORD ON THE GROUND
Farming has been subject to inspection by external audits since the late 1990s.
The most commonly known is the Red Tractor assurance scheme and is designed to show that crops or livestock are produced to a standard that is acceptable to a majority of the consumers of our products and its aim is to produce safe food as cheaply as possible in an environmentally-friendly way.
Originally, it was hoped this one scheme would be enough to satisfy all our end customers (mainly supermarkets, often through a third-party packer).
This wishful thinking didn’t last long and all the different supermarkets started to want their own schemes so they could score points over their competitors.
Our own audits have historically always been done in October each year. Last year, we did the following audits:
Red Tractor: Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet/Assured Produce (potatoes and vining peas).
Tesco’s Nurture: Tesco supplier.
Leaf Marque: M&S and Waitrose supplier.
Field 2 Fork: M&S supplier.
Waitrose Audit: Waitrose supplier.
This year, we have had to add GlobalGap for Daffodil Flowers as an additional audit. This is being demanded by European customers, rather than UK supermarkets.
The frustrating factor is that they refused to do the audit in October, saying they had to come during the cropping season. When they came in late February, we were snowed and frozen up, so no cropping was happening!
They asked the same questions as the Red Tractor audit. For the pleasure of this we are being charged £525 plus €300 for the certificate! If we want to sell the bulbs from which the flowers come from under the GlobalGap scheme we need another audit and costs!
It strikes me as that the originator of the audit had no idea that an ornamental crop would be grown by a food producing farmer. Come on, let’s have some common-sense!