Transparency demanded in rules for quality bonus
Farmer representatives have demanded greater transparency in the operation of the beef factories' In-Spec Quality Assurance (QA) bonus scheme after it emerged that a two-tier base price was being operated by processors.
Reductions in the base price for cattle of between 10c/kg and 30c/kg have been introduced by slaughter plants for stock that did not come from quality assured herds.
Plants in the west and south were quoting a base of 380c/kg last week for cattle that were not from QA herds. This was 30c/kg below their quoted base price of 410c/kg and cost some suppliers up to €130/hd on finished steers.
ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has reacted angrily to the move. He accused the factories of financing the recent increase in the In-Spec QA bonus from 6c/kg to 12c/kg by slashing the price of non-quality assured stock.
Under the terms of the quality payment system (QPS) or grid, a 12c/kg bonus on top of the quoted base is to be paid for all In-Spec QA cattle. However, factories now appear to be working off one base for cattle from QA herds and another for non-QA stock.
"It is unacceptable that there is now two base prices for beef in some factories, without any statement to inform all farmers that the beef grid no longer operates as it has done up to recently," Mr Phelan said.
Speaking to the Farming Independent last week, a spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) attributed the pricing changes to the collapse in demand for non-QA beef as a result of the horsemeat scandal.
However, Mr Phelan rejected this assertion. He said the stance currently being taken by factories would give the impression that it was somehow the non-quality assured farmers "who put horsemeat in the burgers".