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Key worker status given in race to audit cereals growers

Early harvests will be prioritised but all crop scheme members are being urged to book their audits as soon as possible.
Early harvests will be prioritised but all crop scheme members are being urged to book their audits as soon as possible.

The race is on to get 1,200 Scottish Quality Crops (SQC) audits completed ahead of the first combines rolling into barley fields next month.

Lockdown measures, which halted physical audits, have resulted in a long backlog of growers who still need to be equipped with crop passports in order to sell quality assured cereals to distillers, brewers, millers and livestock feed companies.

To speed up the process, the Scottish Government has now designated auditors as key workers and approved the resumption of physical audits which will begin late next week.

Time-consuming virtual audits will also continue in an attempt to meet the harvest deadlines.

SQC executive director Alistair Ewan said only 1,400 audits had been completed when lockdown was introduced, and the virtual system has been operating ever since.

“However it’s a slow and tedious process for farmers with poor broadband or challenging IT skills,” he said.

“We met with Fergus Ewing and his officials this week and from next week we are being permitted to return to physical audits, with all the appropriate social distancing and PPE.

“We are now urging all combinable crop scheme members to get their audits booked as soon as possible in order to attain their passports either physically or virtually.

“Growers of the earliest harvests of winter barley and oilseed rape are being prioritised but we are trying to embrace everyone and ensure we meet their deadlines.”

Mr Ewan said there had been talk of obtaining a derogation from meeting the usual auditing requirements because of Covid-19 restrictions, but that suggestion had been rejected.

He said: “It would take away food security and the robustness of our assurance scheme, and wouldn’t be in the interests of farmers or the whisky or milling industries.”

nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk

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