QPS delivers significant advantages, insists IFA

Angus Woods
Angus Woods

Martin Ryan

A robust defence of the controversial Quality Pricing System (QPS) for cattle at the factories has been launched as the IFA ruled out a reform of the grid.

The association claims that the system is returning a 12c/kg bonus on three of every five heifers and almost half of the steers slaughtered each year at the export factories.

However, strong producer condemnation of the scheme which has persisted since it was introduced in 2009 shows no signs of abating.

Calls for reform from a number of farm bodies have focused on the complexity of the 225 grade 'grid' and additional criteria to qualify for the 12c/kg.

However, at the recent IFA national council meeting Kevin Kinsella, the organisation's director of livestock, outlined significant advantages which the QPS has delivered to suppliers of cattle to the factories. It has rejected outright the calls for reform of the grid.

Angus Woods, IFA livestock chair, told a regional meeting at Corofin, Co Clare that the criteria to qualify for the QPS Bonus of 12c/kg is not an issue for the majority of suppliers.

Quality assured

He said that 93pc of steers and heifers being supplied to the factories are Bord Bia Quality Assured, with 74pc of steers and 86pc of heifer under 30 months.

Some 63pc of the steers and 74pc of the heifers are within the conformation and fat score grades to qualify for the bonus payment, and 92pc of the steers and 93pc of the heifers are meeting the 70-day residency requirement.

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On the controversial four movement rule, only 7pc of the steers and 5pc of the heifers fail to qualify.

However, as each animal is required to qualify under all criteria, the overall result is that 44pc of the steers and 59pc of the heifers meet all criteria to qualify for the payment.

Mr Woods stressed that the situation in the UK, where each factory have their own 'grid' is far more complex and less beneficial to producers and warned of the possible introduction of a similar system in this country.

"In the UK each factory decides what they want to pay for, and the price which they pay for each individual grade is based on what they require for their customers with their base price including the in-spec bonus," he said.

"There is a reduction of £1 off the base price for non-quality-assured animals, and the penalties for the poorer grades are much higher (than in this country) and they don't pay for over 450kg, while over 30 months is paid for at cow base price. So it is not possible to compare UK and Irish prices," he said.

"In this country we have the same grid operating in each factory, but the Competition Authority won't agree to uniformity in any future reform of the grid.

"They will not allow collective agreement the next time around in reform of the grid and we need to be aware of that," he warned.

However, the ICMSA has argued that the losses suffered by farmers under the QPS far outweigh the gains made. It has stressed that it feels the grid places too many penalties and restrictions on beef production.

The ICSA has called for a full review of the grid payment system.

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