Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president, David Brown has highlighted the benefits of the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (NIBL FQAS).

The initiative was launched 30 years ago.

The UFU president said: “We would expect that it provides improved opportunities and returns in accessing important internal export markets. We would also expect our local retailers to fully get behind locally sourced FQAS beef and lamb. 

“Farmers work hard to comply with the scheme, it has its challenges like any other, so it is important that they are rewarded for their efforts.”

David Brown believes there is a clear need for farm assurance with continuing development to support the needs of the industry and its markets.

He commented:

“FQAS has evolved over the last 30 years and will do so in the future as sustainability becomes the new focus for industry and consumers going forward.”

Conall Donnelly, chief executive of Northern Ireland Meat Exporters’ Association (NIMEA), agrees.

“FQAS truly is an excellent supply chain initiative. It is unique in these islands, in that it is the only farm quality assurance scheme that is funded by both farmers and processors and it continues to be supported strongly by the entire industry,” Donnelly said.

“Its unique delivery model, with a single, not-for-profit, certification body (NIFCC), has helped to ensure a uniform approach to all farm inspections, and synergies through joint inspections across the beef and dairy sectors, reducing the burden on farms.

“As the market and regulatory environment has changed over the years, FQAS has responded and moved with the times. With the strong support of industry, FQAS has led the evidence-based development of its standards to address new and emerging challenges in a practical and proportionate way,” he added.

Farm Quality Assurance Scheme

By common consent, FQAS was at the forefront of the development of the unique Food Fortress scheme to address the fallout of the 2008 dioxin crisis.

“The scheme was the first in the UK to introduce mandatory antimicrobial resistance training for all its member farmers,” Donnelly continued.

“It has directly supported the [bovine viral diarrhoea] BVD eradication programme through the inclusion of new FQAS standards, with the full support of its farming and processing stakeholders.”

According to the NIMEA representative, the world does not stand still. 

“There is a growing focus from customers on the environmental impact of farming, particularly on carbon, biodiversity along with water, soil and air quality,” he continued.

“The evolution of FQAS standards may ultimately be part of the industry’s response to these challenges.”