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Farmers continue protests despite deal reached with minister and meat processors at the weekend

Farmers insist the base line price of beef needs to be increased before they will agree.

Protests are continuing at meat factories today.
Protests are continuing at meat factories today.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

Updated Sep 16th 2019, 4:56 PM

PROTESTS ARE CONTINUING at the gates of meat processing factories across Ireland despite a deal being struck between farmers and the meat industry yesterday. 

An agreement was reached between farmers and beef processors following talks of over 30 hours long, organised by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed over the weekend. 

The agreement was based upon increased bonuses for farmers and the dropping of all legal actions in exchange for an end to the blockades at factory gates. 

However, not all farmers have agreed to it and pickets remain outside a number of factories today. 

Gerard Gough of the Independent Farmers of Ireland group, which said it would neither accept nor reject the deal at this stage, said he tried to sell the deal to farmers but they aren’t buying it. 

“We told the minister and the chairman that we were there to represent the independent farmers at the gates at the factories, and that what was going to be agreed was going to be brought back to the farmers to adjudicate on whether it was acceptable,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning. 

“On a personal level, there is some very good points in it for starting but the biggest problem we have with the farmers at the moment is the fear factor, the trust. They cannot trust meat factories, they cannot trust Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

“They’re afraid they’ll sign up for a deal today and bang, it’s going to be gone tomorrow… When I was trying to sell it last night, what the farmers couldn’t understand was why MII and the factories didn’t come to the roundtable talks.

“I was at the gates of at 2 o’clock last night trying to sell this deal – not a simple task – and they said ‘why didn’t they come round the table. What are they afraid of?’”

In a statement this evening, MII said it was dismayed that blockades were continuing at factory gates a day after the agreement had been reached.

“Yesterday’s agreement with all farming organisations required that all protesting and blockading across the country would cease immediately,” the group said.

“This has not been honoured, in contravention of the agreement negotiated in good faith.

“This continued illegal blockading of processing plants shows an absolute disregard for the law of the land.”

New quality bonus

The main points contained in the agreement include a new bonus for steers and heifers aged between 30 and 36 months, of eight cent a kilogram, as well as the current bonus for 30-month cattle jumping from 12 to 20 cent per kilogramme. 

It also states that the Quality Payment Grid – which indicates how much a farmer will get paid based weights – will be reviewed, and promises the creation of an independently chaired Beef Market taskforce. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland programme earlier today, however, chairman of the Beef Plan Movement, Hugh Doyle said it has stood down its protests but many other farmers will not accept the deal as it does not change the baseline price of beef. 

“Nearly 50% of the farmers that were at the meeting last night explained to me that they got nothing,” he said, following a meeting with protesters in Ballyjamesduff last night. 

“They feel, a lot of these talks and what we’re bringing back to the table are promised going forward and what they want to see is money, tangible money. 

“In beef pricing you have a base price which everything works off and all the bonuses come in on top of that and what they said to me was, until the base price is looked at they’re not moving,” he said. 

“You’ve no idea of the frustration, and the abandonment, and the trust of the grassroots farmer and the processor – in this country it is beyond an all time low. 

“The factories have businesses, the factories have contracts to fill, the factories have millions of pounds worth of meet stuck in a factory that needs to come out… and then I have the farmers on the other side whose businesses are going down the toilet. “

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