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More pickets at beef plants as talks labelled 'a waste of time' unless prices are on the table

The unofficial protests are ongoing amid unrest among farmers.

A placard at a protest in Clonee earlier this month.
A placard at a protest in Clonee earlier this month.
Image: TheJournal.ie

PROTESTS ARE ONGOING at some meat processing facilities as the IFA has said that more talks are “a waste of time” unless price is being discussed.

The unofficial protests are not being organised by any specific group with those on the picket saying they have taken the action themselves.

Yesterday, the Beef Plan Movement confirmed that it has rejected the draft deal reached between farmers, the meat industry and the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Beef Plan Movement protests were suspended on 9 August after 12 days of pickets around the country but some farmers are still protesting over beef prices.

Speaking on the RTÉ’s News at One this afternoon, IFA President Joe Healy said the reason farmers were not happy with the previous talks is that the central issue of beef prices wasn’t addressed.

“We talk about going back into talks but it’s a waste of time going back in if we can’t talk about price. We mentioned price every time we were in there but unfortunately it couldn’t be talked about, or so we were told,” Healy says.

Okay price mightn’t be agreed in there, and competition law states that, but price can still be talked about in there because it’s very clear no matter what farmer you talk to it’s all about price.

Beef prices are down considerably from this time last year with Healy saying farmers are being forced to sell at below the average cost of production, as estimated by Teagasc.

Healy says that part of the problem is an oversupply in the market that is being made worse by the importation of beef from South America. The IFA has called for an immediate ban “on all sub-standard South American beef”.

“It’s a price increase that farmers want. We need the EU market to be rebalanced, it’s oversupplied at the moment but a lot of that oversupply is as a result of beef that’s coming in from South America.

We had 140,000 tonnes of beef coming in from Brazil last year and people confuse it with the Mercosur deal and that hasn’t even hit yet.

Beef prices are set through supply and demand. The Department of Agriculture cannot directly intervene to set prices but there have been calls for greater transparency around pricing.

PastedImage-62997 Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley Source: TheJournal.ie

Sinn Féin today published a bill that seeks to have meat processors publish cattle prices that would be available to the public each day.

The Mandatory Beef Price Transparency would require beef processors to provide details around the price paid for cattle per kilogram as well as details of the cut and grade of beef for boxed beef.

Brian Stanley TD said the party was not seeking to set a specific price that beef farmers should receive but added that intervention was needed.

There’s huge, huge discrepancies in the information coming in as to what various factories and processors are paying. There’s huge discrepancy as regarding what share farmers get, but what we do know is that the farmers are running at loss, I’ve seen some of their balance sheets. What we do know is that some of major beef processors are making massive profits.

Stanley added the couldn’t say price-fixing was happening but that farmers feel they are not being dealt with honestly. 

“We have reports from around the country of farmers who believe that cattle is being graded wrongly, that they’re being disadvantaged. They believe that there’s discrepancies in the information coming through. So the only way the only way of flushing all of this out and getting knowledge out in the open is having that observatory there to ensure that there is up to date daily information there.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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