Milling & Grains: What are some of the main benefits to adopting an electronic passport?
Roz Reynolds: The aim of the pilot is to test the concept of an electronic passport in real-life commercial settings. This is to gain evidence-based information on (1) the practicalities of operating the system, (2) the cost of participation and (3) the benefits and risks of using an electronic system. The feasibility study identified some potential benefits, which include the ability to meet future data requirements, improving two-way flow of information and adding strength to crop assurance.
M&G: What was the process of getting the pilot to the launch stage?
Reynolds: In 2012, HGCA undertook a feasibility study on behalf of the industry to consider the concept of moving the UK’s current paper-based grain passport to an electronic platform. The feasibility study included a detailed consultation with growers, merchants, hauliers and processors.
The study followed discussions about an eGrain passport by the Cereals Liaison Group, which is an industry group representing all parts of the cereal supply chain. These discussions included the need to meet future data requirements, improving two-way flow of information and adding strength to crop assurance.
Following the feasibility study, further consultation was held with the industry about undertaking a pilot. The pilot is supported by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), the Maltsters Association of Great Britain (MAGB), the National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim), the National Farmers Union (NFU), the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
M&G: As there are separate pilots for malting barley and milling wheat, what are the marked differences between the two in terms of business and supply chain concerns?
Reynolds: There are no significant differences between the chains. Both are interested in farm assurance, for example, and are interested in the potential benefits related to this offered by the electronic system. The purpose of the pilot is to test the system in a variety of scenarios. Indeed, the UK cereal industry is a fast-moving and dynamic industry and, if an eGrain passport system is going to work for the cereal sector, it needs to be able to cope with a range of scenarios and situations.
Over the 12-month industry pilot, HGCA will look to test the system in a wide range of situations including rejections and grower self-hauling, to name just a few. HGCA will also test the system when IT connectivity is not possible and a paper-based fallback solution is needed.
Testing the system in a range of situations and scenarios will not be without its challenges. The pilot has been set up to identify these challenges and propose potential solutions. The pilot and its recommendations must be robust and reflect the realities of the industry.
M&G: What sort of markers is the steering committee looking for to determine how successful the pilot is?
Reynolds: The pilot is a proof of concept and aims to address the following:
- Enable the industry to get first-hand experience of the practicalities of operating the system, the costs of participation and the benefits and risks of using the system; and
- produce recommendations on whether the solution should be rolled out to a wider user base, and, if appropriate, how a wider rollout should be achieved.
It should be noted that a national rollout will not necessarily follow the pilot. Information gained from the trial will enable evidence-based recommendations to be made on whether the solution should be rolled out nationally or not.
M&G: If it's determined that the passport should be rolled out nationally, how long will that take?
Reynolds: If it is decided that an electronic passport should be rolled out more widely, then a discussion will need to be had on an appropriate transition period in consultation with the industry.
Unlike electronic systems that have been rolled out in other commodity sectors (e.g. pig movement system) there is no legislative driver, and a decision will need to be taken by the industry on what is appropriate.
M&G: Any model e-passports the steering committee has looked at to set up this pilot program?
Reynolds: We are not aware of other systems in the grain sector in operation currently, but we have looked at the pig movement system eAML2 developed by our colleagues in the pig division of AHDB, BPEX.