The annual fee for participating in the NI beef and lamb farm quality assurance scheme (FQAS) is increasing to £75 plus VAT.

The scheme is owned and managed by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) and its chief executive, Ian Stevenson, said the £15 fee increase was needed as FQAS was operating at a loss.

“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,” he said.

The latest fee review follows a £5 increase in annual fees in 2019, but Stevenson points out that the last increase before that was in 2012. He added that the scheme is also funded by a processor fee, which has been increased by 20% under the latest review.

Meanwhile, over half of FQAS participants have completed training in the responsible use of antimicrobials. Participation in the course become a compulsory requirement for FQAS in February 2020 and over 7,000 have completed the training so far.

An online version of the free course was rolled out last year when COVID-19 prevented in-person workshops.

“FQAS members who are anticipating an inspection should enrol on a course as soon as possible and this can be done through the CAFRE website,” said Colin Smith from the LMC.