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Stackyard News Oct 06

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    Impossible for eight per cent of Irish farms to produce 50 per cent of beef

The National Beef Association has once again asked Bord Bia for written proof that less than ten per cent of beef farms in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) can produce enough beef to satisfy UK supermarket demands for fully farm assured product from its Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS).
NBA chairman, Duff Burrell

NBA chairman, Duff Burrell

The Association has also informed Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco, which are among the retailers which import beef from the ROI, of its request and made them aware it thinks Bord Bia's claim cannot be substantiated.

Collective purchases from UK supermarkets account for around 35 per cent of ROI production and each company has demanded that its beef is covered by an independent, and verifiable, farm assurance scheme.

"Last week Bord Bia claimed it was a fact that less than ten per cent of Irish farms produce 50 per cent of Irish beef and that this remarkable assertion could be confirmed from official figures," explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.

"The NBA has carefully studied the most recent information on Irish beef farm structures and calculated that production from 38 per cent of farms, or around 32,148 holdings, would cover 50 per cent of national output and that 20,000 farms would be needed to meet UK supermarket demands."

"Bord Bia has at last confirmed that just 6,500 farms are BQAS assured, hopefully with full accredited EN45011 certificates, but these figures underline the extraordinary gap between Bord Bia claims and the mounting suspicions of the UK beef industry, UK farm assurance specialists, and some UK supermarkets."

"If it is to make its assertions credible the Bord must, as a matter of urgency, provide the UK industry with fully authenticated information on the number of farms that are fully registered with BQAS, how many of these are up to date with their inspections, the proportion of beef production that is EN45001 accredited through BQAS and exactly what proportion of exports to the UK are BQAS assured."

According to the NBA the response is unlikely to be a quick one because the Association first put these questions to Bord Bia on August 21st and it has yet to respond.

"In the absence of a confident and authoritative written reply it is difficult not to conclude that Bord Bia is uncomfortable about the gap between its public assertions and the real shortfalls in BQAS cover," said Mr Burrell.

"Our fear is that non-assured beef from the ROI has been sold through UK supermarkets for months and that it will be many months before there are enough BQAS assured farms to prevent this."

"Supermarkets make no secret of their demands that the UK beef they sell must be from fully assured cattle and so they must cut their orders from ROI suppliers to levels that are line with actual BQAS cover."

"The proposition that just 6,500 beef farms out of 84,600 can produce enough beef to meet the demands of all UK supermarkets and continental buyers who insist on assurance, is quite frankly unbelievable."

link Credibility of UK's farm assurance programme undermined by cavalier attitudes in Republic of Ireland
link Bord Bia continues to deny farm assurance problems
link Supermarket led beef price squeeze will end if finishers toughen up selling

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National Beef Association