Following the announcement last week that many Covid-19 public health guidelines have been relaxed, Bord Bia has confirmed today (Wednesday, January 26) that it will return to on-farm audits for the various quality assurance schemes.

On January 6, the Irish Food Board had announced that it would move back to conducting remote audits – without farm visits – due to the high level of Covid-19 case numbers at the time.

Now that Covid-19 guidelines have been relaxed, Bord Bia will return to including farm visits as part of the audit process, and all audits scheduled since Monday of this week (January 24) will be on-farm.

Farmers who had scheduled an audit before that date will not be affected, meaning their audit will be carried out remotely. However, these farmers can choose to have an on-farm audit instead if they prefer.

The original return to on-farm audits came last November 1, with audits before that having been carried out remotely since the start of the pandemic.

On-farm audits were briefly curtailed again on January 6, until today’s confirmation.

Also today, Bord Bia confirmed that it was continuing to develop a ‘blended’ approach to farm audits. This system is currently being finalised and tested, and is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The blended approach will reduce the duration of any on-site element of an audit to an “absolute minimum” a Bord Bia spokesperson said.

The blended audit will see a mixture between the full remote audit and the full on-site audit. It will consist of a pre-audit phone call; a pre-audit online documentation upload; and a reduced farm walk, maintaining full social distancing and lasting approximately 30 minutes.

Any interaction between the farmer and the auditor during the farm walk will be socially distanced, and will take place outside with no transfer of documents or other contact, the Bord Bia spokesperson explained.

The aim of the farm walk will be to observe conformance with the standard requirements, relating mainly to facilities, animal husbandry and animal health and welfare.

The blended audit will use the same online portal that was developed for the full remote audit, it is understood.