It is expected that 100% of Irish dairy farmers will be signed up to Bord Bia’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme by early next year.

This was one of the messages conveyed by Bord Bia’s CEO, Tara McCarthy, at the annual foodservice market seminar in Dublin.

Speaking at the seminar, McCarthy said: “Origin Green remains one of the absolute pillars of our future. Because sustainability – as an agenda – continues to evolve and change. We know that although huge work has been done, as we celebrated its [Origin Green’s] fifth birthday this year, there is so much more to do.

“We have already built on our quality assurance schemes, where we are now converting those quality assurance schemes to sustainability and quality assurance schemes – having that rolled out for beef, lamb and dairy.

We hope to have 100% of our dairy farmers signed up to that early next year.

The SDAS is a comprehensive quality and sustainability programme that independently audits performance at farm level every 18 months.

Key objectives of the scheme include: demonstrating to customers of dairy products that milk is produced sustainably under an accredited scheme; providing a uniform mechanism for recording and monitoring; and setting out the criteria for best practice in dairy farming.

Speaking to AgriLand, McCarthy said: “At the recent Dairygold launch – where they opened their new facility in Mitchelstown – they spoke of just 20 suppliers that they had remaining to [sign up].

So, we’re very close to it. Our statistics are around 85% at the moment, but there is a real momentum building at this stage and we would hope that we would get to that 100% very, very soon.

“We had hoped to get this done very quickly. The schedule was dictated by the co-ops and the farmers. We didn’t put a deadline on it, we just said ASAP all the way through it. It started in January 2013 and having so much achieved by 2017 is already a huge credit to the farming community.”

Beef and lamb

Meanwhile, Bord Bia’s CEO outlined that the feedback to its new Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) – which it launched earlier this year – has been very positive.

“There has been a clear movement by us to address the close-out issues that had been a huge area of concern for farmers. That’s been hugely welcomed.

“We have also now introduced a helpline for farmers as part of that, which there is a very strong uptake to. The feedback to date has been very positive for all involved,” she said.

The SBLAS sets out the agreed standards for the production and certification of Irish beef and lamb.

The new scheme was designed in collaboration with the sector stakeholders, to meet the demands of global food buyers for verifiable proof of Ireland’s sustainability claims.

Over the next year or so, the SBLAS is set to replace the previous quality assurance scheme on a phased basis.