Over the past few months, we’ve received an increasing number of requests for new and evermore detailed information from our customers. Suddenly, customers are asking for additional pathogen tests (increasingly for diseases not found in our growing areas), highly specific production details, new traceability verifications, and more.
We understand: our customers are being pressured by their customers, so they need to push the questions down the value chain to us, their seed suppliers. Information is simply the new reality for all. Although it can be costly and time-consuming to provide, transparency throughout the value chain is the single best way to capture and maintain customer confidence.
The questions being asked of the entire value chain come from processors’, retailers’ and restaurants’ ever-increasing focus on food safety. While human illness-causing bacteria are a non-issue in potatoes, given that they are always cooked prior to consumption, the entire produce industry is falling under blanket expectations.
Expect, too, that this may be only the start. Potatoes are very healthy in terms of overall farming practices. However, consumers’ new prioritization on sustainability and traceability is likely to put pressure on producers to reduce their overall use of chemicals, whether doing so is the right production approach or not.
In the long run, additional testing and paperwork requirements will force the price of all products up. In the interim, however, additional costs will be borne by those who can’t push their costs onto anyone else: namely, individual growers.
How can seed farms best respond to the new realities? Brace yourself for the inevitable. While personal relationships with buyers will always be important, expect that spreadsheet and scientific data will be king going forward. Prepare to do more testing and to efficiently and effectively accommodate as many of your customers’ needs as possible. Keep clear records, formalize paperwork processes, make information easily available to customers. In short, get ahead of the curve so you’re not playing catch-up later. We are here to help with information if you’re unsure of best steps.
While commercial and seed farms already do an excellent job of providing transparent production and traceability information, expect that everyone may be asked to step up their game. It’ll be worth your while: the farms with the most consistent, clear, concise paperwork will have the easiest job of marketing their seed in this new sales reality.