‘Failing to deliver’: Farmers ‘losing confidence’ in Quality Assurance

Farmers are losing confidence in Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance schemes for “failing to deliver” on price, producers from the floor said at an open beef farmer meeting tonight, Monday, April 15.

Organised by Laois Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), tonight’s meeting saw Cormac Healy, director of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and Michael Houlihane, sector manager at Bord Bia, give addresses to the attending farmers, facing questions on the challenges facing farmers – with plummeting beef prices taking centre stage.

Two farmers from the floor during the questions and answers session following market presentation raised the issue of question marks coming from producers about the scheme.

Delivering

Kildare IFA chairman Brian Rushe said: “It’s very obvious from what you’re saying there that Bord Bia is busy and it’s very obvious that it’s delivering some markets and delivering markets for processors.

“What’s less obvious, or what’s not obvious at all to farmers, is what Bord Bia is doing to deliver for farmers themselves. Their bottom line price and margin.”

Noting that the “only true measure of success” of QA to the Irish farmer is price, Rushe said that the scheme “is failing to deliver on that – consistently”.

The farmer asked Houlihane to tell Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy that: “She is losing the confidence of farmers; she is losing the confidence of farm families; and she is very close to losing the confidence of farmers I represent.

QA needs to deliver – and it is failing to deliver.

Kilkenny chair James Murphy added: “Certainly the farmers in Kilkenny that I’m talking to; they’re just losing confidence in Quality Assurance and their read on it is that it’s now just becoming a gimmick to get into markets that benefit processors but certainly don’t benefit us.”

Identifying

In response, Houlihane said: “We do what we can in terms of identifying opportunities, making connections, and introducing the potential customers in the marketplace to the companies that are doing business here. At a certain point it becomes a commercial transaction and we have to step out of that.

The fact that the QA is a prerequisite for most of the markets and most of the customers that were trying to deal with and target in the marketplace that there is some value in it.

The Bord Bia representative said he accepts that it can be “difficult to see that filtering all the way back down”, particularly with current prices.

He added that he would take back the message, reminding those present that farmers “do have a voice” at the top table of Bord Bia, with leaders from the country’s two largest farmer organisations having seats at the board.