Revised business case for digital grain passport

2nd July 2024 | Grain Trading, UK Policy & Regulation

The business case for a digital combinable crops passport has been revised following the industry consultation held earlier this year. But the oilseeds trade sector has withdrawn from the project.

The Digital Passport (DP Leadership Group is chaired by the AHDB with representation from the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the National Farmers Union and NFU Scotland, the Maltsters Association of Great Britain and UK Flour Millers. It has reviewed and discussed all 79 topics raised by questions submitted during the industry-wide consultation that closed in February 2024, with 400 farm businesses and 50 supply chain businesses submitting questions during the consultation.

The AHDB says the central conclusion of the consultation is not a choice between paper or digital passports. Rather, the issue is whether there should be a single, universal, industry-wide digital passport, or several different digital passports introduced by individual processors and merchants to meet their own requirements.

Other changes to the business case include making the feedback of quality data to growers an obligation, with AHDB using the data to enhance and develop its existing data sets such as UK cereals supply and demand balance sheets; cereals usage data; and the cereal quality survey.

The AHDB would be the legal entity owning the Digital Passport system software and database. It would develop a process for growers without computer or smartphone skills to use digital passports via a telephone helpdesk; and update budgets to show the need for Defra grant funding to finance the build, roll-out and initial running costs of the project.

The leadership group warms that adoption of a digital passport system depends on such grant funding being in place plus an agreement from the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Sector Council that it will take responsibility for the long-term management and funding of the digital passport using levy funds and further grant sources.

At the same time, the Seed Crushers and Oilseed Processors Association (SCOPA) withdrew from the Leadership Group at the beginning of June 2024. The Association says its members are unable to support the rewritten proposals – specifically the real-time return of weight and quality data through the digital passport system – at this time. Therefore, oilseed deliveries into crushing plants operated by SCOPA members will not require a digital passport – the way in which SCOPA members require food and feed safety information to be shared with them is now outside the scope of the DP business case.

Should the rest of the industry decide to proceed with the digital passport proposals in the business case, then SCOPA members would discuss and agree their requirements with their supply base.

The AIC has asked for further time to allow its members to review the changed business case for a digital passport.

“Significant changes have been made to the Digital Passport Business Case since the industry last had the opportunity to review it – particularly around data feedback, governance, funding, and accessibility,” comments AIC chief executive Robert Sheasby. “That is why AIC insisted that there must now be a period for its members to review the changes to the Business Case and digest the answers to key questions posed during the original industry-wide consultation.

“We received a wide range of feedback from AIC Members during the original consultation phase via our online Digital Passport hub, webinars and working group meetings, as well as through discussions at relevant AIC committee meetings. Having listened carefully to these complex and broad-ranging Member views, since February we have worked hard to reflect these in our engagement with the various Digital Passport groups AIC contributes to.”

Formal responses from the AIC and other industry bodies are expected in the early summer, with work on the immediate priorities, funding, and long-term system ownership set to progress during summer 2024. A post-harvest update is expected once these discussions conclude.