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Importers of Irish Beef should avoid double standards on farm assurance
22/01/07

Importers of the 250,000 tonnes of beef from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) which enters the UK each year are going to have to select their purchases extremely carefully if they are to avoid retailing product that falls below domestic farm assurance standards and being unfair to British beef farmers.

NBA chief executive, Robert Forster
© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

NBA chief executive, Robert Forster

So says the National Beef Association which can not only confirm that South West Services, the farm inspection body contracted by the ROI authorities, is not EN45004 accredited as is demanded of inspection companies in the UK.

But can also report that it continues to have difficulty believing that Bord Bia, which runs the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS), is correct to claim that all beef entering the UK is farm assured.

“Sainsburys, Asda and Tesco import beef from the ROI, as do a number of other retailers. Each of them insists that they will not give home produced product shelf space unless it is farm assured and they have also agreed that beef entering the UK must meet domestic farm assurance standards,” explained NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

“However Bord Bia has confirmed that it has subcontracted farm inspection for BQAS to South West Services (SWS) even though this company would not be allowed to operate as an inspector in the UK because it has not acquired EN45004 accreditation.”

“This means that if importers of beef from the ROI are to avoid the accusation of operating double standards they must avoid beef produced by the 7,500 farms inspected by SWS since it began its work in September 2006 and concentrate on beef from the 5,000 farms that were inspected by EFSIS, which was EN45004 accredited, before its contract with Bord Bia ended last autumn.”

“This huge hole in BQAS procedures within the ROI compared with those demanded in the UK can only be repaired if SWS earns EN45004 accreditation and re-inspects the 7,500 farms or Bord Bia signs a new contract with a company with EN45004 accreditation and it begins to a new round of inspections.”

And although the NBA expects Bord Bia to claim that the 5,000 farms inspected by EFSIS can produce sufficient slaughter cattle to meet UK supermarket demands it has already dismissed this calculation.

“Bord Bia has responded to a request we made under the Freedom of Information Act and confirmed that on August 21st only some 4,642 beef farms had been successfully audited to EN standards”, said Mr Forster.

“It agrees that these represent 6.2 per cent of beef farms but then goes on to claim that just 5,000 of the biggest farms can produce 614,000 cattle a year or 47 per cent of prime beef supplies which is more than enough to meet the requirements of UK customers.”

“The NBA has already written a seven page letter to the major multiples, based on analysis of official cattle movement statistics, which seriously undermines this contention because it shows there is no proof that the largest 5,000 farms have an average herd size that in any way approaches 122 head of slaughter cattle.”

“Indeed while Irish government figures confirm that 4,000 farms carry herds of over 75 cattle they also indicate that a herd of 75 head can be broken into 32 breeding cows, 22 cattle under one year old, 20 head that are between 12-24 months old and two animals that are 24-30 months old .

“This means that only around 22 animals on a farm with a herd of 75 head are slaughter age which dramatically pulls down the 122 indicated by Bord Bia.”

link NBA warns that Irish Beef inspections are not accredited
link NBA feeders in Southern England look to improve finished cattle prices
link Hard pressed dairy farmers can cash in on beef sector

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