Consultation on digital grain passport underway

1st December 2023 | Crops, Grain Trading, UK Policy & Regulation

A new digital grain passport system in the UK is a step nearer, with the business case for the change now out for industry consultation.

The paper grain passport system was originally introduced over 30 years ago, initially for farmers to declare any grain storage pesticide applications, with additional information added over the years. Discussions over a digital version started as early as 2010, followed by an AHDB pilot for the flour milling and malting barley supply chains in 2015 and an industry consultation the next year. However, that attempt foundered when processor organisations were unable to guarantee that all their members would be able to provide growers with instant feedback on grain quality.

The latest case for digitalisation has been drawn up by a cross-industry Leadership Group chaired by the AHDB and comprising farm, merchant and end user trade organisations. A series of working groups has developed the detail for how the digital passport will work as well as designing a data governance framework. The Group has compiled this work into a 57-page business case that addresses all aspects of the new system from governance to development and operation.

Benefits claimed for the switch to a single, industry-wide digital passport are improved data integrity and security; the scope for real-time assurance; reduced costs across the supply chain; and increased confidence and credibility to growers, grain buyers, customers, stakeholders and regulators. Live updates of a load’s assurance status, before a loaded vehicle leaves the farm, could reduce the risk of delay or rejection at the receiver’s intake. The system would allow data to flow multi-directionally and in a simple and reliable manner between farmers, grain merchants and end users such as flour millers, maltsters and feed mills.

“In essence this is a simple change, switching from the pieces of paper currently carried with each load across the country, to a digital equivalent in a robust, secure online system,” says a Leadership Group spokesman. “Operationally, it would be a marked change, and we are now keen to hear views from stakeholders across the supply chain on the proposal.”

Representing grain merchants and feed manufacturers, the AIC says it has consistently supported the principle of a digital passport over the past decade. AIC chief executive Robert Sheasby says the organisation has worked with members and the AHDB over the recent twelve months to clarify the proposal and ensure a business case was prepared for all members to review objectively.

“Through its Leadership Group representation, AIC has collaborated to develop the business case for a digital passport with valuable input from members and scheme participants through our own Digital Passport Working Group as well as various other cross-industry groups,” he says. “AIC is now inviting members to carefully consider the business case and provide constructive feedback during the industry-wide consultation period.”

The business case is now out for an 11-week consultation that began on Monday 20 November 2023 and closes on Friday 2 February 2024. Then the Leadership Group will examine the feedback to assess support for the business case and decide whether it meets industry requirements.

Responses can be made through the trade associations or directly to David.Eudall@ahdb.org.uk. There is more information via the ahdb.org.uk/digital-passport webpages.