THIRTY years ago this month, the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) unveiled one of the world’s first farm quality assurance schemes. The launch of the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (NIBL FQAS) would transform the industry and ensure that Northern Ireland beef and lamb was recognised on a global platform.
Commenting on the anniversary of the launch of FQAS, LMC chief executive Ian Stevenson said: “Northern Ireland was one the first regions in the world with the vision and foresight of the need for an all encompassing farm quality assurance scheme. We were the first of the four UK nations to develop a quality assurance scheme that made a real difference for farmers and the other stakeholder groups within the red meat sector.
“Initially the scheme was envisaged to meet the export needs of our beef and lamb sectors. It was developed to give consumer assurances about the farm end of the production chain with three key pillars: food safety, animal welfare and care for the environment. The FQAS has fundamentally succeeded in giving consumers total confidence in the quality, traceability and heritage of the beef and lamb in Northern Ireland.
“Over 30 years on from its initial development the scheme continues to grow and adapt to meet the evolving needs of the agri-food industry. Eighty per cent of the beef and lamb produced in Northern Ireland is exported. Ensuring that we get the best possible return from these exports is critically important. Our prestigious farm quality assurance scheme is a key driver in ensuring unfettered market access and we are confident that it will continue to play a leading role in securing new export markets.”
Despite the current challenges associated with high input costs, looking to the future Ian remarked that opportunities lie ahead for the industry as work continues to promote and grow the footprint on NIFQA produce. One element of this is the case being made for Northern Ireland’s inclusion in the PGI for Irish Grass Fed Beef, which Ian notes would open a range of new and important export opportunities for the local beef sector. Yet, regardless of the outcome of this bid Ian is confident that FQAS will remain a key pillar for sustained development of the local beef and lamb sectors for years to come.
Concluding the LMC chief executive reflected on the Commission’s commitment to FQAS, “Since its inception thirty years ago the scheme has delivered real quantifiable benefits to the beef and sheep sectors in Northern Ireland. LMC has been delighted to operate and manage the FQAS on behalf of the industry for the past 30 years and looks forward to continuing to do so in the years ahead.”
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