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Meat Industry Ireland pulls out of beef talks over ongoing blockades

Talks between beef farmers, the Department of Agriculture and MII resumed this morning as protests continue.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Image: Leah Farrell

Updated Mon 12:33 PM

MEAT INDUSTRY IRELAND has adjourned its involvement in talks over the beef protests. 

Talks between beef farmers, the Department of Agriculture and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) resumed this morning as farmer protests continue. 

The meetings were being convened by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed. The Irish Farmers’ Association were also due to be involved in the talks. 

Vice-chair of Beef Plan Hugh Doyle said the talks between the group and the department were set to commence at 11am today in the Backweston Department of Agriculture building in Celbridge, Co Kildare. 

The group wants to ensure that the price of beef can be discussed and that the threatened legal action from processing plants against farmers has been removed. 

“If we can’t discuss price, we will have to come back another day, in my opinion,” Doyle told TheJournal.ie. 

Four or five members of the group were due to be taking part in the talks. Members of the retail industry will not be engaging in today’s discussions. 

Meat Industry Ireland

In a statement this afternoon, MII said some 20 plants representing 80% of processing capacity remain blockaded. 

“During an initial engagement with the independent chair and government officials, MII communicated that protesters had failed to step back from factory gate blockades and had instead intensified these illegal blockades,” MII said in its statement. 

“MII requested the Minister and independent chairman to use their best endeavours to have blockades lifted to enable talks,” it said.

The group confirmed that it is adjourning its participation in the talks “until all illegal blockades are lifted”. 

It continued: 

The extent of the continued illegal blockading has placed factory employees in peril of layoffs and prevented beef farmers from having their factory ready cattle processed. Furthermore, the blockades have put in jeopardy national and international customers of Irish beef.

MII noted that its members’ companies “accept the rights of individuals and groups to hold peaceful protests”, but reiterated its stance that “unless illegal blockades are suspended immediately, it cannot continue to engage with the talks process”.  

The Beef Plan group held protests outside an Aldi distribution centre in Co Kildare yesterday. 

Protests have continued as farmers say the price they receive for meat is below the cost of production. This claim was called inaccurate by Meat Industry Ireland in a statement yesterday.

MII said it had indicated in a previous statement that the largest share of the price for beef does not go to the retailer, but rather the producer who receives around two-thirds of the price. 

“The current price pressure in the beef sector is linked to depressed demand for beef in our European and UK markets and the uncertainty surrounding a potential No-Deal Brexit,” said MII in a statement. 

The price paid to farmers for their cattle is the “average” of that paid to their European counterparts, according to the group representing members of the meat industry in Ireland. 

Previous discussions ended after a draft agreement was reached between beef farmers, Meat Industry Ireland and the department. However, many farmers were not satisfied with the agreement and protests continued. 

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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