The President of ICMSA, John Comer, has criticised those he says are ‘merging and confusing’ the role of Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Scheme, which he says he supports, and the Quality Pricing System (QPS) Beef Grid.

He said the QPS Beef Grid was flawed from ‘day one’ and which has been used to bamboozle farmers and facilitate the withholding of a quality bonus.

“ICMSA fully supports the Bord Bia Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (QA) and we have never recommended to our members that they become involved in any boycott of the scheme. ICMSA fully understands the importance of the QA scheme in marketing our produce. We support the principle and practice underpinning the QA scheme and we always have done. What ICMSA objects to the discrimination against (generally) beef cattle from the dairy herd that is, effectively, ‘designed-into’the Quality Payment Scheme (QPS)beef grid where these cattle do not qualify for the QA bonus,” said Mr Comer.

“Just a fortnight ago, we had the Minister and Bord Bia highlighting the fact that almost 90% of Irish beef comes from Quality Assured farms and that this fact ensures that our beef is sold on high priced, premium, markets. But that welcome statistic is at very serious odds with the daily experiences of farmers whose cattle come off a farm that has met the qualifications of the QA scheme but who – when they go to the factory – can never seem to qualify for the bonus paid under the QPS system,” he continued.

“This is the issue ICMSA has. And, in fairness to us, it’s not a problem that we identified today or yesterday. In the run-up to the introduction of the QPS grid, we were prominent among the very few dissenting voices who predicted that a system that was as overly complex and confusing as QPS would quickly be used to the disadvantage of farmers.”

He went on to question whether a grid that is labelled “Quality Payment Scheme” but does not pay a bonus for all quality assured animals is surely not something in which farmers can have faith?

He called for a review of the QPS Beef Grid and said that in with a larger portion of our beef will come from the dairy herd in the future, we need to plan for this rather than ignore it.