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Stackyard News Aug 05

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Older Cattle Disposal Scheme has more good points than bad

Imported beef falls below UK standards

    NBA comments on beef assurance in ROI

The National Beef Association has added deliveries from the Republic of Ireland to the import list that falls substantially short of domestic assurance standards.

It says the retail and distribution trade cynicism that lies behind enthusiasm for low provenance imports is making fools of British farmers who have worked hard to meet demanding production standards and are being hit in the pocket by heavily discounted product from overseas at exactly the time they need encouragement to stick with their own beef cattle.

The Association also claims cheap imports are misleading consumers who expect there to be no difference in the integrity of any of the beef they buy from retail or catering outlets.

"Last week's revelations about the much lower production demands on beef from Brazil highlighted the width of the gap between standards that satisfy importers and those required of home production," explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.

"However we are even more concerned at the differences between the UK's assurance principles and those required by the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS) used in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) which is the source of a much bigger volume of imports."

Last year around 158,000 tonnes of Irish beef, the equivalent of around 40 per cent of its production and 22 per cent of the UK's was trucked in by supermarkets, caterers and manufacturers.

But BQAS standards fall well short of those in the UK because a farm can be awarded an assurance certificate after achieving only 58 per cent compliance compared with the 100 per cent demanded across the UK.

"BQAS categorises its verifiable standards into "Critical" requiring 100% compliance, and then "Category 1" and "Category 2" both of which score two points for full compliance, one point for partial compliance, and nil points for no compliance," said Mr Burrell.

"Qualifying farmers must score 65% on Category 1 and 50% on Category 2 requirements, and a nil score automatically excludes them from certification under the Scheme."

"But even though there are 72 verifiable standards in BQAS, only eight are critical requirements, there are only ten in Category 1 compared with a massive 54 in Category 2."

"This means that taking an average over the whole of the standard a farmer in the ROI can become an assured beef producer with just 58% compliance which is in direct contrast to the UK's beef assurance schemes which require 100% compliance - usually after allowing a month to correct any non-compliance found on inspection."

According to the NBA this means supermarkets, who give no indication of the lower assurance standards when retailing Irish beef, are breaking the trust they have established with their consumers.

And that current methods of selling BQAS beef in the UK deceives consumers into believing that the standards applying to imported beef measure up to the much tougher domestic demands.

"It is quite clear to us that beef imports from the ROI, are well below the level of assurance in the UK and we would like retailers to suspend deliveries until standards are raised to UK levels," added Mr Burrell.

"If they do not then they clearly do not set their product demands as high as they tell their customers they do and they should admit this."

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National Beef Association