Continued support for quality assurance scheme in the balance, says ICSA
The ICSA has said that continued support for the Quality Assurance Scheme cannot be guaranteed if ‘abuse’ of the system by processors and retailers continues.
“Farmers cannot continue to support a scheme indefinitely where only one in four cattle gets a quality assurance bonus even though 87% of animals slaughtered are coming from quality assured farms. ICSA is launching an ultimatum to processors and retailers: deal with the issues raised by farmers, or farmers will have no option but to boycott quality assurance.”
He said the issues that cannot be ignored any longer include:
- A quality assured bonus for all cattle coming from a Quality Assured Farm;
- An end to the undermining of the mart trade with artificial rules on residency and number of movements;
- The removal of proposed weight limits of 380kg for quality continental suckler herd bulls; to be replaced with a strategy for viable prices up to 450kg for this stock;
- An end to dual pricing whereby the base price is no longer available to certain categories of animals and some prime animals are getting prices below cow price;
- Immediate stabilisation of beef prices, followed by price increases as market demand improves; and,
- A resolution to the problem of exporting stores to Northern Ireland.
He went on to say that the ICSA understands that these issues will take time to solve and for that reason ICSA will hold off until November 1, before calling on all farmers, farm organisations and marts to withdraw co-operation with the Quality Assurance Scheme.
“We understand that this is a drastic move but ICSA cannot stand idly by when we see that cattle farmers are at the edge of despair on income. Why should farmers co-operate with a scheme when we get none of the benefits from it? The Teagasc Open Day at Grange brought clarity to the issue, showing that the most efficient suckler farmers with 70 cows on 100 acres could only earn €4,000 in return for many unsociable hours calving cows and looking after stock.”
He also said that farmers have to keep each animal for 2-3 years, while factories and retailers only deal with them for 2-3 days, and yet farmers are expected to jump through hoops for quality assurance and watch processors and retailers get rich while farmers eat into their capital to prop up the beef sector. “To add to the insult, supermarkets boast to their customers about how all their beef is quality assured but they’re not so keen to tell the full story of how farmers are being exploited. This has got to stop,” he warned.