Quality assurance -The NI agri food industry excels

Pictured at NIFCC's AGM are Noel Lavery, Operations Manager; Valerie McCann, Secretary and Harry Sinclair , chairman
Pictured at NIFCC's AGM are Noel Lavery, Operations Manager; Valerie McCann, Secretary and Harry Sinclair , chairman
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Quality Assurance, which is independently verified, is putting the entire agri food chain in Northern Ireland at the leading edge of food safety.

On farm production, livestock transport, livestock markets, and the three leading industry standards, namely, British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards for food safety, food processing, storage and distribution are all independently audited in order to provide quality guarantees for the customer.

Providing the auditing service for these schemes is NI Food Chain Certification, a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body, whose remit is to provide product certification schemes to the NI agri food industry, in addition to providing industry training to BRC standards.

Speaking at NIFCC’s annual general meeting, the chairman, Harry Sinclair outlined the results for the various quality assurance schemes emphasising the increased participation which had put considerable pressure on NIFCC resources. However the company would forge ahead with potential growth areas, increasing resources if necessary, in order to provide a first class service to the industry.

He said: “The focus of our business development in the food processing sector will be to continue to promote our auditing and certification services for the BRC Storage and Distribution Standard and also the BRC Agents and Brokers Standard, both of which are potential growth areas.”

Another main focus of NIFCC’s business development continues to be investment in their IT system to provide electronic reporting for the on-farm schemes and to include a documentary evidence review system to further enhance the efficiency of the certification process.

Extract from the Directors’ Report on the various schemes:

Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Scheme contract delivery

The core business of NIFCC continues to be the service delivery of the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS). During the year, a total of 8,880 inspections were completed made up of 940 initial, 7,340 surveillance, 575 spot-check and 25 re-inspections. The number of Approved Producers in FQAS at the year end was 11,600, which was a year on year increase of 720.

Farm Quality Assured Cereals Scheme

NIFCC has also been administering the Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured Cereals Scheme (FQACS) since 2006. During 2014-15, NIFCC completed 577 cereals scheme inspections made up of 242 ‘Cereals only’ inspections and 335 combined Cereals and Beef and Lamb inspections. Membership of the cereals quality assurance scheme currently stands at 940.

Red Tractor Assurance Livestock Transport and Livestock Market Schemes

NIFCC has been administering the Red Tractor Assurance Livestock Transport and Livestock Market schemes since 2006 and 2007 respectively. During the year, 54 transport scheme inspections and 26 market scheme inspections were completed. Currently there are 64 assured livestock hauliers and 25 assured markets and collection centres registered with NIFCC.

Red Tractor Farm Assurance Poultry Scheme

NIFCC has also been administering the Red Tractor Farm Assurance (RTFA) Poultry Scheme since April 2008. 624 Poultry Scheme inspections were completed during the year and there are currently 575 approved producers in the RTFA Poultry scheme.

Red Tractor Farm Assurance Dairy Scheme

NIFCC has been providing inspection and certification to the RTFA Dairy Scheme since January 2009. 543 Dairy Scheme inspections were completed during the year, made up of 61 ‘Dairy only’ inspections and 482 combined Dairy and Beef and Lamb inspections. More recently, we have seen a significant increase in applications to the Red Tractor Dairy Scheme. 475 applications were received from June to September this year, compared to 113 during the previous 12-month period. The Directors are pleased to report that we had both the reserves and flexibility to respond to this increase in membership applications. There are currently 1,120 approved producers in the RTFA Dairy scheme, which is an increase of 360 members in the past year, and represents 33% of dairy farms in Northern Ireland.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) Meat Processing Schemes

NIFCC has also been providing inspection and certification services to the food processing sector since 2009. We are now an established service provider for three leading industry standards, namely the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety, the BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution and the Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) Meat Processing Scheme. During the year, 58 BRC Food, 5 BRC Storage and Distribution and 10 RTA Meat Processing were completed. We are also continuing to provide training to industry, against the BRC Standards, and this year we have delivered nine training courses to 102 individuals, including our own auditing and certification staff.

Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops

We have also been providing audits for the Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC), under contract to another certification body, Product Authentication International (PAI) since 2010. During the year, 13 grain stores and 68 hauliers were inspected, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.