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Farmers' group calls 5c increase in beef prices 'a derisory offer' as blockades go on

ABP Food Group made the announcement this afternoon, labelling protests as “needless and irresponsible”.

Updated Dec 6th 2019, 8:10 PM

ONE OF THE country’s biggest meat processing companies has said it will increase its meat prices from next Monday, branding protests by the Irish Farmers Association as “needless and irresponsible”. 

ABP Food Group made the announcement this afternoon following protests demanding a significant and immediate beef price increase by members of the IFA outside Lidl and Aldi distribution centres. 

The Larry Goodman-owned company said it is “at a complete loss” to understand why the IFA protested at retail distribution centres this week.

“The Beef Task Force met on Tuesday and Joe Healy and the IFA were fully aware that market indications pointed towards a cattle price increase in Ireland. This was reported extensively.

“Joe Healy is also aware that cattle prices are quoted on a Friday and the timing of this stunt was motivated by competition for membership between traditional and new farm organisations.

“The price paid by ABP for cattle will always be determined by the prevailing market conditions and those conditions have recently improved. ABP can confirm, as was indicated on Tuesday at the Beef Task Force, that it will increase the base price of cattle for deliveries from next Monday,” a spokesperson for ABP said. 

Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association’s beef chair Edmund Graham said the increase “of just 5c is a derisory offer that won’t quell farmer frustration”.

The proposed level of this increase by ABP is way below what’s needed. It appears the meat industry is hell-bent on dragging out any meaningful price increases for as long as possible.

“ABP were already back by 5c on the other processors with base prices of just €3.45 for both heifers and steers this week. At that rate, the bulk of any price increase will just go towards getting back on the same low level as the others.”

The indicators all show that there is no reason why beef price should remain stuck at €3.50/kg or below when markets all over the globe are taking off. We need to see real movement to get our beef prices off the floor if the sector is to have any hope, and time is running out.

Currently, farmers in Ireland receive less money for their cattle than their British and EU counterparts. Irish prices are 20c/kg or €80 per animal behind the Bord Bia price tracker, and 50c/kg or €180 behind the UK price.

The IFA has accused retailers such as Aldi and Lidl of driving down food prices, with farmers being the ones who lose out. The blockade outside Aldi yesterday was the first direct action organised by the IFA since an agreement was reached between farmers and meat factories in September after weeks of protests. 

Throughout the summer, farmers from other groups staged protests and blockades at plants across the country. 

On 27 August, ABP was among the companies who were granted temporary High Court injunctions restraining groups of protesters from blockading their factories and intimidating staff and suppliers. 

Tensions grew with meat factories until an agreement was broached in September, brokered by Agriculture Minister Micheal Creed and agreed between farmers’ groups – including the IFA and the grassroots Beef Plan Movement campaign – and Meat Industry Ireland. 

The agreement had seemed to offer the prospect of an end to protests, with the promise of an independently chaired Beef Market Taskforce to satisfy concerns over price. 

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Adam Daly

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