Coveney calls for calm as QA 'boycott' threat splits industry
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) has defended its call for a boycott of Bord Bia's Beef Quality Assurance Scheme because of what it has termed "the abuse" of the scheme by processors and retailers.
"Farmers are simply not seeing the benefits of the scheme," said ICSA spokesman Edmond Phelan in response to accusations that the organisation was taking an "irresponsible" stance that would further depress beef prices.
The ICSA claims that additional conditions, which have been added to the quality assurance scheme, mean that QA has been used as a tool by processors to drive down beef prices over the last year.
However, Bord Bia and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) have questioned the logic of such a move, while the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, urged both processors and farmers to work to rebuild trust in the beef industry.
MII described suggestions that farmers should boycott the QA schemes as "highly irresponsible" and claimed that such a move would have "a catastrophic impact on the price achieved for Irish beef and the incomes of Irish beef farmers".
"The Bord Bia quality assurance scheme is a critical part of Ireland's beef export marketing capability and is a vital ingredient i n maintaining and securing premium markets for Irish beef," the MII statement insisted.
"Without a quality assured scheme and quality assured product, Ireland's returns, and access to premium EU and international markets for our beef, would reduce dramatically," the processor organisation warned.
Reacting to the call for a boycott, Minister Coveney said there was a responsibility on farmers and processors to ensure that the scheme worked well.