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Beef blockades will resume unless prices recover: IFA

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IFA President Eddie Downey chairs an IFA EGM on the beef crisis at the Farm Centre in Dublin. The IFA President said the meat industry’s commitment to the Minister to address the issues, must translate into immediate and substantial beef price increases
Picture:  Finbarr O'Rourke.

IFA President Eddie Downey chairs an IFA EGM on the beef crisis at the Farm Centre in Dublin. The IFA President said the meat industry’s commitment to the Minister to address the issues, must translate into immediate and substantial beef price increases Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.

IFA President Eddie Downey, flanked by IFA General Secretary Pat Smith and Deputy President Tim O'Leary, chairs an IFA EGM on the beef crisis. Picture:  Finbarr O'Rourke.

IFA President Eddie Downey, flanked by IFA General Secretary Pat Smith and Deputy President Tim O'Leary, chairs an IFA EGM on the beef crisis. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.

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IFA President Eddie Downey chairs an IFA EGM on the beef crisis at the Farm Centre in Dublin. The IFA President said the meat industry’s commitment to the Minister to address the issues, must translate into immediate and substantial beef price increases Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.

Beef farmer blockades outside slaughter plants could resume by the end of the week unless cattle quotes improved immediately.

The warning was issued by the IFA following an emergency meeting of the farm organisation's executive council.

IFA president Eddie Downey insisted that "further action" would be taken by farmers unless significant beef price increases were delivered by the factories.

Mr Downey said farmers were angry that the price differential between Ireland and Britain and the issue of specifications for bonuses and penalties had not been addressed in the wake of last week's beef roundtable meeting.

"Unless there is significant movement on this and the specification issues, farmers will not let another week go by without further action," Mr Downey said.

While IFA would not be drawn on what form the 'further action' would take, some sources in the organisation have suggested that a two-day strike was being mooted.

"There is hunger on the ground for action," said one farm leader, while another said a two-day blockade would represent a "stepping up" of the campaign.

The heightened tension between the farm organisations and factories came as Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, forecast that Irish beef exports to China could commence in the first half of 2015.

Minister Coveney, who is heading up a trade mission to China this week, confirmed that the Chinese food safety authority, the ASQIQ, agreed to send a team of veterinary inspectors to audit Irish meat export plants in early December, with a view to opening up the vast Chinese market to Irish product in 2015.

Market

"It's only a matter of time before China becomes Ireland's second most important market after Britain," Minister Coveney predicted.

However, the deepening beef price dispute overshadowed what could potentially be a massive boost for the industry.

Responding to the possibility of a renewed blockade, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) called on the IFA to back down. "MII members remain fully committed to the beef roundtable process and in particular the request by the minister to liaise with stakeholders during this process in advance of the next roundtable," the MII stated.

Minister Coveney confirmed that he will convene another meeting of the beef forum next Wednesday, November 12.

Ahead of this meeting, bilateral discussions between the farm organisations and MII are due to take place.

However, Mr Downey has insisted that price increases will have to be in place and the QPS payment system will have to be reinstated if these discussions are to succeed.

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