FEES for participation in the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS) will be increased from Tuesday, May 4. Initial application and annual renewal fees for producer members will increase by £15 to £75 (excluding VAT).
FQAS is owned and managed on behalf of the industry by the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC).
LMC Chief Executive and Chairman of the FQAS Industry Board Ian Stevenson said: “FQAS is an excellent example of a successful supply chain partnership in Northern Ireland where beef and sheep producers and processors work collectively to enhance our offering in the marketplace and deliver essential assurances to customers on animal welfare, food safety and environmental conditions on members’ farms.
“Application and membership renewal fees have remained relatively static for much of the past decade with a modest £5 increase in producer fees implemented in April 2019. This was the first increase in scheme fees since 2012.
“Until 2019 FQAS had been operating at a managed loss as historic FQAS reserves were utilised. Since then the scheme has been breaking even.
“With no significant reserves to rely on and an increase in scheme operating costs, the Industry Board had to review and increase scheme income to ensure its long term sustainability. The board was keen to keep fee increases to the lowest level possible and a £15 increase in the annual fee is broadly equivalent to one per cent of the value of one prime animal slaughtered in the course of 12 months so it is a very modest increase which is being applied at this time.
“This increase in producer membership fees has been accompanied by a 20 per cent increase in the FQAS processor throughput fee.
“FQAS’s funding model is unique in the UK in that income is derived from both farmer and processor contributions. This increase in scheme income will be utilised to meet ongoing scheme operational costs but will also help with essential supply chain development work where gathering of data is needed to help evidence and monitor the industry’s strong sustainability credentials.
“FQAS is one of the longest-running schemes in existence and is held in extremely high regard by retail customers and consumers alike. As consumer demands evolve so must the scheme, hence the increased processor contribution to help fund new strategically important initiatives linked to sustainability and on-farm carbon balance calculations for example.”
The scheme, which was first established in 1991, has continuously developed to give consumers assurances about the farm end of the production chain. FQAS is important, not only for the local market but for the export market too.
An FQAS Industry Board comprising representatives from LMC, NIMEA, UFU, NBA, NSA, DAERA and NIAPA advises the LMC board on the commercial management of FQAS.
Mr Stevenson concluded: “LMC and the FQAS Board recognise that any additional costs in the supply chain should only be implemented when they are absolutely necessary and this is very much the case in this instance.
“Despite the membership fee increase to £75 (excluding VAT) for annual renewal and application fees, FQAS membership fees remain the lowest of all the UK assurance schemes due to our unique funding model. LMC will continue to run the scheme as efficiently as possible going forward and assist industry in preparing for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“All members of the FQAS Industry Board are in no doubt how important FQAS is to the beef and sheep meat industry in Northern Ireland. FQAS is a prerequisite for servicing the vast majority of our markets in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe and industry participation in FQAS is at the top of the list of essential requirements needed to do business with them.”
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