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File photo of a protest earlier this week. Eamonn Farrell
Kepak

Chinese inspection of Roscommon meat plant didn't go ahead because of protest

Beef Plan Movement leaders said they weren’t involved in the blockade of a factory.

A DELEGATION OF Chinese inspectors was prevented from visiting a meat processing plant in Athleague, Roscommon today due to a protest organised by a small number of beef farmers. 

The Beef Plan Movement said the demonstration was not authorised by its central committee.

Inspectors had been due to inspect the Kepak factory in Athleague today as part of a visit to approve Irish factories to export sheep meat to China. 

However, some protesters continued their barricade which led to the inspection not taking place. 

A spokesperson for Kepak said that senior management at the company had met with leaders of the Beef Plan Movement on Saturday night to try to ensure the inspection was not blocked. 

Further consultation with the Department of Agriculture also failed to make progress and led to Kepak cancelling the inspection, which the company had hoped would result in its meat being ‘Chinese export approved’. 

“Given the uncertainty around Brexit and the current weak meat market across Europe, China is one significant growth market that offers great potential for Irish beef and lamb,” the spokesperson said. 

“This behaviour today, by people who claim to represent the interests of farmers is a massive own goal and the cost of the failure to get this site Chinese export approved will be primarily borne by West of Ireland farmers for many years,” the spokesperson added. 

However, Beef Plan Movement has said it didn’t organise the blockade and was critical of the decision to obstruct the inspection. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Chairman of Beef Plan Movement Eamon Corley said he was not aware that a delegation of the group had met with Kepak. 

The Chinese inspection, Corley said, should go ahead, and he added was “disappointed” that the audit had been blocked by protesters. 

The Beef Plan Movement “recognises the value of the Chinese market,” he said. 

Corley also offered to “use his influence to ensure that the inspection does go ahead”.

Tensions have increased in recent days as farmers continue to protest meat plants across the country. 

A Garda spokesperson confirmed today that a man had been arrested at a meat processing plant in BallyJamesduff, Cavan, while on Friday a farmer drove a tractor into a wall during a demonstration. 

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