Beef Forum goes ahead but farm leaders won't be there

IFA President Joe Healy.
IFA President Joe Healy.

Tomorrow's meeting of the Beef Forum will go ahead, despite the planned protest by IFA beef farmers outside the Department of Agriculture's headquarters.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed in a statement yesterday that the scheduled Beef Forum meeting will go ahead.

However, the Farming Independent understands that senior Department officials had contacted a number of farm bodies over the last few days to establish if they planned to attend the meeting.

Both the ICSA and ICMSA have stated that they will not pass a picket by fellow farmers and will not be present at Wednesday's meeting.

ICSA said its actions were motivated by "solidarity" with fellow farmers, while an ICMSA statement pointed out that "in its whole history ICMSA has never passed a farmer picket".

In contrast, Bord Bia said it will attend the forum, as will Teagasc. A spokesman for the state research body said the meeting "was in a colleague's diary". An ICOS official said the co-operative body had not discussed the matter, while ICBF did not respond to requests for a comment.

Confirming that tomorrow's protest will go ahead, IFA president Joe Healy said beef farmers were "furious" with the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, and accused him of allowing the factories to "run amok and systematically cut cattle prices to loss-making levels".

Pointing out that cattle prices continued to rise in Britain, Ireland's largest export market, Mr Healy said the factories had used the recent drought and feed shortages to slash beef prices.

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"Since mid-July, the factories have hammered prices down from a base of €4.00/kg to €3.75/kg, and are now trying €3.70/kg. They took advantage of farmers in the drought and used the weather and costs against them," Mr Healy said.

'Warning shot'

"During this period, despite repeated requests, the Minister never lifted a finger against the factories. He called in the banks, he worked with the co-ops on the fodder issue, but never said a word to the meat factories. He gave them free rein and let them run amok".

Mr Healy said the Beef Forum protest was a "warning shot" for Minister Creed.

"The minister must deliver on sucklers in next week's Budget. Minister Creed has to show he is on the side of farmers," the IFA president said.

Meanwhile, Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which will be present at tomorrow's Beef Forum meeting, has rejected criticism of beef processors on beef prices.

MII director Cormac Healy said that Irish cattle prices are running at 107pc of EU average price year-to-date and claimed that recent commentary ignored the challenging market environment at play since mid-summer, particularly across Northern Europe.

"The number of animals processed by the industry year-to-date is up 3.5pc or 45,000 head. The additional Irish beef output is coming on to an EU market in strong supply," said the MII representative.

ICMSA and ICSA withdraw in solidarity 'with farmers' on IFA price protest

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