Many farmers have been misled and confused about the difference between the in-spec bonus and the Quality Assurance (QA) scheme, according to Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy.
McCarthy said QA was one of several elements of the in-spec bonus which was sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “Bord Bia bonus” or “QA bonus”.
Speaking on RTE’s Countrywide, she said the language had been used interchangeable, which led to the confusion.
“There is a bonus that farmers get. It is an in-spec bonus. What in-spec means is it’s suitable to the top markets that I am looking for, it’s what my top customers are asking me for,” McCarthy said.
90% of our exports are now represented by Quality Assured farms
“What those top customers are asking for is four things. They are asking for younger animals – that’s the age. We’ve heard a lot about 30 months but that is what the customers have mentioned.
“They’re talking about animals that don’t move, less than four times from different farms. They’re talking about the conformation of it and they’re talking about the animal being part of Quality Assurance.”
She explained QA was a system which provided “proof points” to help sell Irish beef to premium customers by proving it was “doing something better than the average”.
“We introduced the Quality Assurance scheme … it’s been around for over 25 years but it’s been continuously reinventing itself and improving itself and 90% of our exports are now represented by Quality Assured farms, roughly speaking over 50,000 farms.”
Bord Bia has come in for some heavy farmer criticism in recent weeks during the beef protests for its role in the beef sector.
On the semi-state body’s role, McCarthy stressed it did not sell beef. She said it had a role in building awareness of Irish beef, promoting Irish beef among international buyers, and promoting it to domestic consumers.
The recent beef protests had caused a short-term hit to the beef sector according to McCarthy as customers had been let down.
“People have looked at their options and you never want someone who’s loyal to you traditionally to look for other options. That’s a vulnerability for us without a doubt.
“We have lost business not customers so what I mean by that is when we are talking to our customers, they’re looking for interim solutions but they are not de-listing Irish beef.”
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