CAN we have a full and frank disclosure?
Farm assurance is demanded of UK beef farmers supplying domestic supermarkets and the National Beef Association believes it should therefore be demanded of farmers producing beef imported into the UK too.
However, the Association has deep reservations about farm assurance cover for beef arriving from the Republic of Ireland and believes it to be inadequate.
Our contention is that 35% of Irish beef production is required by the UK's supermarkets, which include Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco, but perhaps only 10% to 15% of Irish production is currently covered by farms accredited through EN45011 inspection to the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS).
This means it is difficult for any UK supermarket to be sure that the beef it receives from Ireland really is farm assured and impossible for all UK supermarkets to import farm assured Irish beef.
Bord Bia, which runs the scheme, has denied there is a problem and insists that there is full assurance cover for all deliveries to UK supermarkets.
Information available to the NBA suggests otherwise but rather than continue a ping-pong of accusation and denial we would prefer Bord Bia to end speculation by answering the following questions which were first put to it by the NBA on August 21st and again on September 5th.
Exactly how many Irish producers are fully registered with BQAS?
Exactly how many of these are up to date with their inspections?
What proportion of ROI beef producers does the latter represent?
What proportion of ROI beef production is therefore EN450011 accredited through BQAS?
And what proportion of exports to the UK are BQAS assured?
If Bord Bia provides answers that are full, and unequivocal, and show that the NBA is mistaken to have said that some, or perhaps all, UK supermarkets are selling non-assured Irish beef then it will blush deeply and admit it was wrong.
However if Bord Bia continues to refuse to provide simple answers then the NBA, and others too, will have to conclude that it dare not respond because its own figures will prove it has let down UK buyers who require farm assurance cover and is allowing beef to be delivered to them that fails to meet their due diligence requirements.
The solution is in Bord Bia's hands.
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