Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.02.2004

QA to help growers share in handling gains

By Eammon Conaghan

Fresh moves are being made to make Quality Assurance (QA) systems more appealing to graingrowers.

For years, agricultural producers, particularly in livestock and horticulture, have been urged to ‘adopt’ QA systems – some of which did little to endear the practice to farmers.

QA training and the cost of audits in return for sometimes intangible benefits have not made compelling business sense for many producers, according to CBH On-farm QA Co-ordinator, Mr Dave Jeffries. Mr Jeffries is heading CBH’s push to develop the BetterFarm IQ (Integrated Quality) program for grains.

“CBH is trying to make the QA equation add up for growers by offering genuine rewards for delivering a product with a known history and traceability,” he says.

“QA growers represent a lower risk to the integrity of grain in the supply chain, which translates into reduced costs for the CBH group and we aim to share that with QA growers by lowering storage and handling charges for them.”

Interested growers can integrate their on-farm QA into CBH’s SQF 2000 program. Under the program, CBH will appraise grower QA systems for less than the annual external audit costs associated with SQF 2000 accreditation. With CBH acting as a ‘QA mediator’, growers will face less formal SQF audits.

While reducing the costs of maintaining a QA program is handy, it is however only one half of the equation.

“By integrating growers’ quality systems with ours, we have the confidence to trial programs which will deliver grower benefits,” Mr Jeffries explains.

“For example, we are examining the feasibility of handing grain testing to QA growers so they can declare their own grain quality and by-pass receival point testing when making deliveries. Random checks would be used to qualify grower declarations.”

This would save growers valuable time during harvest while ensuring that CBH knows the production history of the grain received, rather than knowing only the readings produced by a narrow sample taken at delivery, as is now the case.

According to Mr Jeffries, the BetterFarm IQ system aims to bring growers closer to their customers and CBH closer to their suppliers in a partnership.

That partnership will be underpinned by a training course for QA growers aimed at reinforcing the importance of meeting quality and safety standards. Equipped with that understanding, CBH believes growers will honour their obligations to SQF.

“Growers need to understand our side of the business too. For example, they should know that even one pickled grain in a shipment of malting barley could result in a rejection of the grain and upwards of $10 million in associated costs,” Mr Jeffries says.

“Our training program will help build that mutual understanding while tailoring a specific QA manual for their farm.”

According to Hyden grower and GRDC Western Panel chairman Mr Dale Baker, tangible grower benefits for QA accreditation are important to help encourage industry adoption.

“In some other agricultural sectors, QA has been dangled as a prerequisite offering little advantage beyond continued access to markets that producers have sold to for years,” he says.

“The first graingrowers to adopt QA schemes are the ones most likely to capitalise on any advantages while consolidating market share and I therefore commend CBH on a quality initiative which shapes as a winwin for them and growers.”

For more information:
Dave Jeffries, CBH, 08 9454 0358, djeffries@cbh.com.au