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Stackyard News Sep 05

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NBA comments on beef assurance in ROI

Imported beef falls below UK standards

    Top class farm assurance must be rewarded

Beef farmers throughout the UK invest effort and cost into securing top class levels of farm assurance certification and their commitment justifies a proper reward from the market place.

So says the National Beef Association which is defending itself vigorously after being attacked for pointing out that assurance standards in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) are lower than those in the UK.

"There is no point in working hard to hit difficult production yardsticks if there is no reward from the market," explained NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

"The UK beef industry is going through an income crisis and if its product carries superior assurance credentials it has a right to point this out and expect buyers to put it at the top of their shopping list."

"Current UK standards have been designed to deliver the baseline production conditions that supermarkets demand and it is infuriating to see these retailers accept imports that fall well short of these same criteria without pointing out the differences to their customers."

"We are a UK organisation representing beef farmers in all parts of the UK and we want to encourage a badly needed lift in farm income by pointing out the shortfalls in import standards and persuading supermarkets to generate more consumer interests in home produced beef"

And the Association dismisses claims that because the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS) in the Republic of Ireland has EN45011 certification its standards are level with the UK's.

"EN405511 only confirms that an approved system of certification is in place and it is carried by BQAS even though qualifying farms need only to hit 65 per cent of its Category 1 standards and 50 per cent of Category 2," said Mr Forster.

"This acceptance of partial compliance means that after taking an average over the whole standard a farmer in the ROI can enjoy all the benefits of beef assurance with just 58 per cent compliance compared with the 100 per cent demanded for EN405511 approved schemes in the UK."

"It is important that these differences are recognised and accepted because price based competition from ROI beef will become even more fierce when the OTM rule is changed later this autumn and tens of thousands of tonnes of imported beef will have to be pushed aside to make way for our own product."

"UK farmers cannot possibly compete against imports on price because cattle values are so low that some businesses are already being closed down."

"However their higher farm assurance standards do allow them to make a legitimate challenge based on product provenance and production integrity."

"The success, or failure, of this approach will depend on how quickly supermarkets admit that it is hypocritical to demand high standards from the UK farmer but accept lower standards for imports - and then acknowledge that if they do not point out the difference in standards at the chill cabinet then they are betraying their customers' trust too."

"The National Beef Association would like everyone else with an interest in the beef industry to press home this critically important point," Mr Forster added.

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National Beef Association