Why CIPC stewardship is an issue for all

Opinion piece for Fresh Produce Journal: Dr Mike Storey, Chairman CIPC Stewardship Group Mike Storey

The potato industry must take a united stand in facing up to the challenges for CIPC stewardship – it’s not an issue for the fogging contractor alone; it’s a concern that should be top of the agenda for the farm owner, the store manager, the purchaser of the crop and the wider industry – we all must take responsibility.

It’s a tough line to be taking – particularly during this very difficult season – but there is a clear imperative. The regulators at the highest levels have voiced recent serious concerns about residue levels of the sprout suppressant chlorpropham (or CIPC) being found on potatoes in excess of the maximum residue level during official monitoring.

This must serve as a real wake-up call – if industry action is not effective there is a real risk that we could lose CIPC – with very serious consequences right across the supply chain. There are some 1.2 million tonnes of stored crop treated with CIPC.

That’s not to say the industry has been idle; quite the contrary in fact. Since CIPC Stewardship started five years ago the awareness of the application limits for stored potato crops has increased massively.

There has also been investment in research to define best practice in relation to store set-up, temperature management, box-stacking patterns and tightened competency certification for contractors. This has culminated in a Code of Best Practice that has also been incorporated into Red Tractor assurance.

But despite all this, there is still a tendency to pass the issue off as being one purely for the fogging contractor. Owners and store managers need to seriously look at the condition of their stores and be aware of the risks of under and over-dosing, that results from uneven application. Ventilation and temperature management are key, with the necessity to take extreme care with multiple treatments.

For purchasers, having due diligence practices in place and actively promoted to ensure checks are made and that crops entering the market place have been subject to appropriate scrutiny is vital.

I am very keen that the Stewardship Group can go to the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) during the first quarter of next year with positive news – and I say this while acknowledging that 2012/13 will undoubtedly be a testing storage season.

We have part-filled stores and crops with high levels of soil risk impeding ventilation which we know is a critical factor in evenly distributing the fog applied treatment. It’s never been more important to be at the top your game in this respect.