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'Unofficial' protests under way amid 'widespread disgust' at deal among beef farmers

The Beef Plan Movement has said it does not endorse the pickets.

A group of independent farmers protesting at Dawn Meats in Grannagh earlier this month.
A group of independent farmers protesting at Dawn Meats in Grannagh earlier this month.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

Updated Aug 26th 2019, 1:38 PM

FARMERS WHO DISAGREE with the outcome of beef talks last week have begun unofficial pickets outside several meat factories. 

Protests are currently ongoing at a number of factories around Ireland by independent farmer groups after starting again last night. 

The Beef Plan Movement said it is not endorsing the agreement at the talks after meeting with its members over the weekend. The group has distanced itself from the current protests.   

draft agreement was reached on 20 August between Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, the Beef Plan Movement and members of industry group Meat Industry Ireland. 

Vice-chairman of Beef Plan Hugh Doyle said the group should possibly have walked out on the talks last week. 

“I would say that 98% [of farmers] were disgusted that that was the best we could come up with,” he told TheJournal.ie. 

“When we left the talks, I said I was very disappointed with what was being offered,” he said. “Possibly we should have walked out of the negotiations, it has been a learning curve.”

Some of the terms agreed upon in the draft include 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 that there would 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. 

‘Unofficial’

Doyle said the protests that have been going on in several meat plants around the country since yesterday are completely unofficial.

“We are not endorsing these protests,” he said. 

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said it was “disappointing” that protests have resumed at some beef processing sites in a statement released earlier today.

“Peaceful protest is a right of all, but any disruption of normal processing activity which impacts businesses, staff and farmer suppliers is unacceptable and will only do further damage in an already difficult trading environment,” MII said in the statement. 

An official Chinese delegation will be inspecting several processing plants this week to potentially approve more Irish beef plants exporting to China. 

Beef Plan Movement protests were suspended on 9 August after 12 days of pickets around the country. The group was issued legal letters the day prior from MII after 14 processing plants had been shut down due to the protests. 

Doyle said farmers are annoyed and frustrated with the draft agreement. 

“We agreed that this was the draft document,” he said. “I’m not interested to go back into talks to go around in circles.”

The group met with members over the weekend around Ireland. Doyle said there will be further committee meetings in the next few days.

“I wanted the members to be able to speak for themselves,” he said. “Beef Plan is about the members, not its organisation.”

“There was a lot of shouting at the meetings because they are holding us responsible,” said Doyle.  

- With reporting from Dominic McGrath. 

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