400 beef men descend on Castlerea for IFA meeting

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said beef farmers were paying a heavy price
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said beef farmers were paying a heavy price

Michael O'Brien

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has weighed in on the beef debate following an IFA protest and meeting attended by up to 400 farmers in Castlerea last Thursday.

Mr Martin said that beef farmers were paying a heavy price for the "lack of focus of an increasingly hands-off Agriculture Minister". Deputy Martin was speaking after meeting with beef farmers in Castlerea in Co Roscommon.

"Increasingly, farmers and their representatives believe that they are paying the price for the lack of focus from an Agriculture Minister who has become more hands-off in his approach to his portfolio.

"There is no sense among farmers of a Minister or a Government with a plan to tackle this crisis," he said.

Fianna Fail have pushed for a beef market regulator to prevent a small number of processors and multiples unfairly dominating the market.

While farmers from both the floor and top table at the meeting in Castlerea voiced their dissatisfaction with both the meat processors and the Minister for Agriculture, there was also a palpable air of frustration among many attending with the leadership at the top level of the IFA.

However, careful choreography by the IFA ensured that the meeting did not degenerate into heated scenes witnessed at the last beef meeting in Co Meath.

IFA president Eddie Downey focused on a hopeful message that a reduction of up to 150,000 head at the meat plants next year would result in higher prices for farmers.

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Mr Downey called on Minister Coveney to demand that the factories "get their house in order".

He also stressed the importance of the Minister ensuring that the QPS system is honoured, the changes in specifications be reversed, and that the Northern Irish trade be reopened with a "transparent" labelling system.

"Factories claim that big clients made demands to change the specifications concerning weight restrictions and age limits. But McDonalds in Ireland and Tesco in Britain have both told us that they hadn't sought such changes," he said.

Farmers who spoke at the meeting said that a 50c/kg increase in prices was the least that was required.

Joe Burke of Bord Bia outlined to the meeting how prices had risen in many European countries over the last year.

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