Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 03 December, 2003

Written Answers. - Beef Quality Assurance Scheme.

  68. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the national beef assurance scheme is in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29247/03]

  Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):The animal identification and tracing elements of the national beef assurance scheme have been operational since 1 January 2000. It was envisaged that other elements of the scheme, in particular the inspection and approval of farms, would be undertaken last year in conjunction with the annual round of testing. Detailed discussions took place with the veterinary and farming representative organisations over a long period and a protocol for the conduct of the inspections was agreed. Only a small number of inspections took place because of resistance to the scheme's implementation mainly by veterinarians whose union is seeking a centralised payment system for the costs involved.

  The legislation establishing the scheme clearly provides that the costs of securing a certificate of approval are the responsibility of the applicant. The Exchequer has already invested over €50 million in developing and maintaining the identification and tracing system that underpins the scheme and costs will continue to be incurred under this heading. The scheme is an important element in the drive to maintain and increase marketplace in a difficult sector and I am disappointed with the attitude adopted by Veterinary Ireland on its implementation. Discussions will continue with the its representative body and the farming organisations with a view to resolution at an early date.