18th January, 2013
Edmond Phelan, beef chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, said that in light of the current crisis, a review of the beef quality assurance schemes – and the strategy behind them – is now necessary.
“It’s very frustrating for farmers who are made to jump through all the hoops in terms of traceability to see major shortcomings further down the production line. Worse, many farmers have voluntarily gone further by joining the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme, which sets a still higher standard and exposes them to even more inspections and expense.”
“ICSA is now asking hard questions about the focus of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme. We believe the spotlight must be switched to the processing plants to address the potential faults there. In addition, there seems to be some arbitrary rules linked to the BQAS, which make no sense when you see where the real problems lie.”
“One of the most objectionable rules, which apparently is a requirement of supermarkets, is the absurd rule which effectively means that cattle bought in a mart are not eligible. When a farmer brings a well-fleshed animal to a mart, many potential buyers are hampered by the fact that they have to keep the animal for 70 days to qualify for the BQAS. This is meaningless bureaucracy, which limits farmers’ options.”
“The fact that a farmer is paid 6c/kg less if their animal is even a day over 30 months old is another random and arbitrary rule. Farmers will be getting less tolerant of meaningless bureaucracy such as this, when they see it all undermined by the shortcomings further down the line.”
Mr Phelan said that he is still absolutely in favour of the BQAS scheme and fully supportive of Bórd Bia; but he said, “Supermarkets and processors are going to have to look more closely at themselves instead of spending all their time imposing terms and conditions on farmers.”