How does QA work on farm? The Lentil Company shows how

Photo of a lentil flower in blossom

The Lentil Company (TLC) niche-markets premiwn-quality Australian red lentils to over 30 countries in the world. TLC believes its focus on quality has been the key factor in the achievement of premium prices over traditional suppliers (for example, Turkey and Syria).

TLC also believes there is a place for quality-assured grain. As a result of market research, TLC has found a market which is very willing to buy quality-assured (QA) lentils.

On-farm pulses QA program

To produce QA lentils a quality program is required at every step of the supply chain - from production and processing to marketing. If a grower-produced QA product is processed at a plant where contamination occurs, then it is of little value to the consumer or producer.

As a vertically integrated company, TLC is developing a quality program throughout the supply chain based on the internationally recognised ISO 9000 and HACCP systems.

ISO 9000 is an international standard covering all commercial systems. HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) was developed to identify the critical threats to food safety for the food industry.

From the production side, TLC is helping a group of growers to become QA-accredited through the Pulse Australia Quality Assurance Program in conjunction with the Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture.

Implementing QA on-farm

To grow QA lentils, a QA program for tile individual farm needs to be developed by each grower. The Pulse Australia QA program manual" is used as a guide. Essentially tile program involves looking at each stage of producing tile lentils, checking for potential risks (for example, food safety or food quality), minimising those risks and documenting how it is done.

An important quality issue for TLC is that the brand name, product name, product quality and identification number appear on all TLC bags.

Sample QA ckecklist

Potential grain quality problems and causes.
Potential problemCauseSupply chain stage
Market access banHigh vetch levels in paddocksOn-farm
Fertiliser contamination in foodUrea not cleaned out of truckFarm delivery to storage
Fungicide-treated seed in foodClean silo not usedStorage
Glass in foodNo covers on lightsProcessing
Old/discoloured food usedNo expiry date on bag labelPackaging
Splinters in foodBags in contact with wooden palletDelivery to market