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IFA President Joe Healy speaks to protesting farmers.
IFA President Joe Healy speaks to protesting farmers.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Beef talks ended overnight - but farmers says lack of movement on prices could scupper a final deal

Talks between Meat Industry Ireland and beef farmers ended late last night.
Aug 21st 2019, 8:14 AM 15,918 25

Updated Aug 21st 2019, 11:30 AM

TALKS BETWEEN BEEF farmers and Meat Industry Ireland ended late last night with agreement nominally reached in several areas – but the Beef Plan Movement says members will have the final say on whether a deal is finalised. 

With concerns remaining over the central issue of beef prices, Beef Plan Movement representatives told TheJournal.ie that farmers will likely be disappointed with the terms presented to them after several days of talks with the meat industry and the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed. 

However, representatives suggested that protests were unlikely to resume in the coming weeks. 

Irish beef farmers have been protesting in recent weeks across the country over the threats to their livelihoods due to the drop in sterling caused by Brexit and other issues.

“There wasn’t an agreement reached,” Vice Chairman of the Beef Plan Movement Hugh Doyle said. A draft proposal, he said, will now be shared with farmers in the coming days. 

While Doyle said the agreement contained some “positives”, he predicted that farmers will be disappointed by a proposal that does little to address the main issue of beef prices.

After 14 hours of talks, agreement was reached on a number of areas including on the issue of beef payments that could see up to 200,000 extra cattle qualifying for payments.

The Irish Farmers Journal reported that, following the talks, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that he hoped progress would be enough to stop farmers resuming the protests that had triggered the negotiations. 

“It will deliver better prices transparency for farmers. We made progress on many of the 13 concerns raised by the Beef Plan Movement,” he said. 

In a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Creed said that agreement had been reached “on a wide of very significant issues”. 

Creed said talks, which took place at the Department of Agriculture offices in Lucan, reached agreement on a number of payment issues, including a review of the market specifications that impact on prices in the Quality Payment System, known as the beef grid. 

The talks also agreed that the 70-day residency requirement for a quality bonus will drop to 60 days.

Creed also said in a statement released last night that there will be an expert report published on new technology for beef carcass classification, with additional promises of promotional initiatives for the beef sector and market transparency plans. 

The next steps for the Beef Plan Movement remain unclear if farmers rejected the negotiated agreement. “There is no point in second guessing what is going to happen,” Doyle said. 

David Whelehan, the Beef Plan Movement Westmeath representative, said that the the talks had failed to deliver for farmers. Creed has “failed to deliver for the working beef farmer on the ground,” he said. 

Whelehan predicted that a final decision from members could be reached early next week.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Joe Healy said that farmers will be disappointed that there was limited progress on the issue of beef price increases.

A spokesperson for Meat Industry Ireland “welcomed the agreement reached this morning”. 

“It is recognised however that the current very weak beef market and the consequential knock-on impact on producer beef prices remains a major pressure point in the sector,” they said.

The sector must now focus on the “production of animals that meet the market specifications of key customers at home and in export markets” as it prepares for risk of a no-deal Brexit. 

Protests

Doyle ruled out more protests in the future under the Beef Plan Movement banner. 

“Beef Plan will not be taking part in any future protests. We have litigation pending and we have to cognizant of that,” he said. ”We have volunteers who could potentially be personally liable as a result of this litigation.”

On 9 August, meat industry giant Kepak filed legal proceedings against the Beef Plan Movement. While as of last week no summons had been issued or any further action taken, members of the beef movement have expressed concern about legal action.

Healy did not comment on whether there was a prospect of more protests in the future.

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Dominic McGrath

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