The Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) has confirmed that a formal review of the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Scheme (NIBL FQAS) standards is underway.

“The standards review process started last autumn,” commented LMC’s industry development manager, Colin Smith.

“Our aim is to have the process completed by June of this year. A root and branch review relating to all aspects of NIBL FQAS standards is undertaken every three years and this is what we are in the process of completing at the present time.”

According to the LMC representative, the FQAS standards-setting committee will soon have completed its consultation process with its recommendations going forward to the scheme’s management board over the coming weeks.

LMC owns NIBL FQAS on behalf of cattle and sheep producers in Northern Ireland. The scheme’s management board comprises representatives from a wide range of stakeholder bodies that interface with the red meat sectors.

These include: Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU); Northern Ireland Meat Exporters’ Association (NIMEA); College for Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE); National Beef Association (NBA); National Sheep Association (NSA); Northern Ireland Agriculture Producers’ Association (NIAPA); and LMC itself.

Certification for NI beef and lamb

Currently, the Northern Ireland Food Chain Certification (NIFCC) operates the independent certification system for the NIBL FQAS and is represented on the NIBL FQAS standard-setting committee.

Colin Smith does not foresee a strategic shift in scheme standards, however there will be a relatively small number of changes to existing standards being recommended for the consideration of the NIBL FQAS industry board.

“The scheme currently references a total of 84 standards. But within this, there are a very significant number of detailed matters that are addressed courtesy of a quality assurance inspection,” he said.

“As part of its broader activities, LMC will continue to communicate the full scope of what is entailed by way of the farm quality assurance process and the added value this is delivering for beef and sheep farmers throughout Northern Ireland.”

NIBL FQAS standards are fully recognised by the Red Tractor scheme in England and the equivalent quality assurances measures established in Scotland and Wales.

“There is full equivalence between all four schemes. It is a relationship that is of fundamental importance to every livestock farmer in Northern Ireland,” stressed Smith.

“In effect, this is allowing beef and lamb produced from animals born, reared and processed in Northern Ireland unimpeded access to a market of over 70 million people in Great Britain.

“This trade is worth in excess of £1 billion per annum to Northern Ireland’s economy. The need to build on all of this is obvious,” he added.

“Reviewing NIBL FQAS standards on a regular basis will be a fundamental driver in making sure this happens.”