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.
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.”
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