Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) animal health chair Pat Farrell has said Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue's decision to defer implementation of the prescribing requirement for anti-parasitic products until June 2022 is a practical approach and will provide farmers with clarity around the criteria.

Farrell said that this time must be used “to engage in meaningful discussions to agree a practical approach to this very contentious issue".

Farrell is conscious that farmers will unnecessarily purchase products in anticipation of changes to the systems due to lack of clarity and said "this would be in nobody’s interest and must be avoided”.

"The deferment is an opportunity to develop an approach that allows farmers avail of maximum competition in the supply chain and that prescribing is not influenced by commercial interests," Farrell said.

Reward system

Farrell said there must be a system put in place that rewards farmers for implementing best practice in the use of anti-parasitic products and ensures the active and ongoing involvement of licensed merchants, co-op stores and veterinary pharmacies, all of whom will be edged out of the market without changes to the intended approach.

The 12-month validity of a prescription for these products is merely a continuation of the current requirements for POM products and does not resolve the substantive issue of maintaining competition in the supply of veterinary medicines to farmers, Farrell maintained.

“The guidance of the [Veterinary Council of Ireland] to vets in terms of the knowledge required of the farm and the means by which this knowledge is garnered will be critical in providing for an open, transparent and practical prescribing system that ensures the active involvement of all stakeholders in the process,” he said.

Farrell said concerns in relation to the NVPS, which the IFA has raised, particularly around the area of access to farmers data and the compilation of this data, must also be addressed in this time frame.

Referring to the broader aspects of the veterinary medicines regulation, Pat Farrell said assurances given to the IFA that farmers will not be left without important treatment tools that are required in emergency situations must be clearly set out. This will ensure that farmers can have the medicines on farm to protect the health and welfare of the animals under their care.