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Farmers: We'll keep haystacks piled at the Minister's door until we get answers

“We are here, and the hay is here. We intend to stay until we get satisfactory answers.”

Eddie Downey and other members of the IFA protest this afternoon.
Eddie Downey and other members of the IFA protest this afternoon.
Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated at 4.31pm

A GROUP OF around 50 farmers have stacked bales of hay outside the Department of Agriculture building on Kildare Street, and say they’re prepared to continue their protest until they get a response to their complaints from Minister Simon Coveney.

The demonstration is being staged over what they describe as the agriculture minister’s inaction over the imposition of “severe and unfair specifications” on farmers in the sector.

“We’re here because our incomes from the livestock sector have been completely decimated over the last five months,” Irish Farmers Association President Eddie Downey told TheJournal.ie.

“The Minister has sat on his hands in regards to the livestock industry.”

Downey said that a meeting of a forum at which the issue of livestock prices was discussed “he turned around and he sided with the factories”.

We are here, and the hay is here. We intend to stay until we get satisfactory answers.

In a statement this afternoon, Coveney said he was “acutely aware” of both the importance of the beef sector and the concerns of farmers.

He describeed beef as “the bedrock infrastructure of a critically important Irish industry”, and it is “important that their vulnerability to sharp changes in market conditions is recognised”.

He noted that following the meeting in April, the Department moved to examine whether legislation was possible for ‘the recognition of producer organisations in the beef sector’, a €500,000 advertising campaign for UK and European markets, and improvements to its website in the area of “price transparency”.

“On questions of price, these are matters for the market, and for negotiation between the contracting parties,” he said.

It was recognised in the Dowling Report however, that there was a need for improvement in communications between processors and farmers on questions of price and market specification.

He said stakeholders should “reflect carefully” on the first two meetings, and take time to engage with each other.

Recent figures have pointed to a far steeper decline in prices being paid to Irish producers, compared to those experienced by farmers in Britain.

And a recent Teagasc report found that livestock farm incomes were down between 13 per cent and 22 per cent last year.

Today’s demonstration is part of an ongoing series of protests by the IFA.

The farmers’ group has accused the Minister for Agriculture of “taking his eye off the ball” as he’s expected to leave the Department in the upcoming reshuffle.

First posted at 1.13pm. Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

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