Red Tractor backs 'level playing field' over feed grain imports

Red Tractor says it is backing a 'level playing field' for UK farmers over the issue of feed grain imports
Red Tractor says it is backing a 'level playing field' for UK farmers over the issue of feed grain imports

Red Tractor is backing a 'level playing field' for UK non-assured growers when it comes to the requirements set for grain imported for animal feed production.

The assurance body said it supports the principle for all UK growers to be "free to choose which markets they access, whether they are assured or not".

To help find a solution, the body has joined a working group led by NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw to establish the facts on imported grain standards and compliance.

The AHDB, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and UK Flour Millers are also involved.

At the heart of this issue lies what is known as the 'gatekeeper protocol' part of the AIC feed assurance schemes, which allows grain produced in a country where there is no farm-level assurance to enter the UK feed market.

The protocol is part of the Feed Materials Assurance scheme (FEMAS), which provides an assurance system to certify that feed ingredients destined for UK livestock feed meet strict legal and industry safety requirements.

To ensure the safety of livestock feed, Red Tractor has always specified that feed must be assured under the FEMAS, Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS) or other recognised schemes.

Currently, FEMAS is not open to UK non-assured feed grain growers because of the substantial costs associated with testing, but Red Tractor said this could be interpreted as a 'closed shop'.

It said UK growers should be granted like-for-like access to this scheme, allowing them the freedom to choose to only supply the livestock feed market in this way.

The body's standards already allow for this, meaning non-assured UK grain producers wouldn’t face any additional requirements in choosing to take this route to market should the AIC make the necessary changes to allow it.

Jim Moseley, Red Tractor chief executive said: "We are urging the AIC to review and amend its scheme to create a route to market for non-assured domestic grain under FEMAS and its 'gatekeeper protocol'.

"Equal opportunities to supply the UK’s assured animal feed market should be given to domestic farmers as is afforded to imported grain.

"Of course, the UK flour milling industry also imports wheat and it has clarified its requirements for the imported wheat assurance market.

"Ultimately, it is for British farmers to carefully consider all the options open to them and do what they feel is in the best interests of their business," he said.