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Farmers and processors agree to two weeks of talks to try to end the beef crisis

McDonald’s and Tesco, the two biggest buyers of Irish beef, attended discussions this evening for the first time.

Image: cattle via Shutterstock

FARMERS, BEEF PROCESSORS, and Government agencies have agreed to two weeks of intensive talks in an attempt to end the beef crisis.

It has also been agreed to set up Producer Organisations, aimed at enabling farmers to ‘organise collectively for the purposes of negotiating on prices with processors’.

A number of stakeholders in the industry held an extensive three-and-a-half hour Beef Forum earlier this evening.

McDonald’s and Tesco, the two biggest buyers of Irish beef, were also in attendance for the first time.

The intensive discussions, focusing on the ‘commercial issues’ in the dispute, will be chaired by Michael Dowling over the new two weeks.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said there was an “honest exchange” of views at this evening’s meeting.

“There are areas of disagreement between stakeholders in the sector right now, but this simply reinforces the need for constructive dialogue on issues of strategic importance,” he said.

I am fully aware that beef farmers have had a challenging year having seen reduced prices for their animals compared to this time last year.

He added that his Department will move quickly to establish the Producer Organisations, which he said was supported by all stakeholders at the meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Patrick Kent said that the talks must focus on issues such as a quality assurance bonuses and an end to the 30-month age limit.

“ICSA is adamant that farmers must get a much improved price in order to be viable, and movement on these specs would go some way towards increasing returns,” Kent said.

IFA President Eddie Downey said that the meat factories must react to protests held at the weekend by farmers, and address the “massive” €350 per head price gap between Ireland and the UK.

Downey said there is ‘no credible explanation why the strong price increase in the UK, which takes over half of our exports, is not reflected in higher prices to Irish farmers’.

Read: Farmers are holding a 24-hour protest about beef prices >

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Nicky Ryan

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