NFU and NFU Scotland reject move to digital grain passports

AHDB's proposal sought to replace the existing paper passport with a digital solution
AHDB's proposal sought to replace the existing paper passport with a digital solution

The NFU and NFU Scotland say they remain unconvinced that moving to digital grain passports will be better than the current paper system.

The news follows an AHDB consultation with the industry over the introduction of a digital passport for combinable crops, which closed for responses on 2 February.

Digitising paper passports to improve food and feed safety data communication, through supply chains, has been discussed for more than a decade.

The NFU and NFU Scotland went out to its membership to gather feedback on the proposal, online and through their regional and national boards.

Based on the business case put forward by AHDB's Digital Grain Passport Leadership Group, the NFU said it was "not in a position to support progressing the digital grain passport in its current format".

NFU Scotland added that its members determined that three of the six key criteria - accessibility, efficiency and proportionate costs versus benefits - had not been met.

However, criteria centred around being fit for purpose, data ownership and data usage had been met.

AHDB's business case for adoptation said that switching to a single, industry-wide digital passport would improve data integrity and security, provide scope for real-time assurance checks and reduce costs across the supply chain.

The move was also expected to increase confidence and credibility to growers, buyers' customers, stakeholders and regulators, the organisation said.

But the NFU said: "A critical benefit of a digital passport for our members is the transparency and efficiency that immediate feedback of sample data at intake would deliver for their farm business.

"This must be guaranteed, not simply an ‘expectation’ as stated in the business case."

NFU Scotland said that, broadly, its members remained unsupportive of the introduction of digital grain passports.

The union added that the current paper-based system "seems to work well for farmers and merchants because it is simple and cost effective."

Chair of NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee, Willie Thomson said: "We remain unconvinced that moving to a digital system will be better than a paper system.

"The committee considered that only three of the six key tests had been met. Our members do not feel that this would be a positive move for industry."

AHDB's Leadership Group said it would collate and analyse the consultation's feedback, with a response expected in March.