Beef industry shutdown: Deadlock deepens as factories walk out of talks

A number of plants are still being blockaded (Brian Lawless/PA)
A number of plants are still being blockaded (Brian Lawless/PA)
Beef farmers from the Beef Plan movement pictured at the picket line outside Keypak in Clonee Co Meath. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Margaret Donnellyand Ciaran Moran

The battle between beef farmers and the meat processors remains deadlocked after the collapse yesterday of negotiations convened by Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to resolve the increasingly bitter dispute.

Processors pulled out of the talks due to ongoing protests at factory gates. This morning the meat industry stated that its members are facing an indefinite cessation of cattle slaughtering throughout the country.

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Protests remain in place at up to 20 meat plants nationwide.

The Independent Farmers of Ireland group, which claims to represent many of the protesters, said it had warned that "the men and women around the country would not leave the gates until talks concluded successfully".

The collapse of yesterday's talks will be seen as a further blow to Minister Creed, who has been heavily criticised over his response to the crisis by opposition parties and farm organisations.

While beef prices remain the central issues for most protesting farmers, factories are also under pressure to remove controversial specification requirements on cattle, particularly the 30-month age rule.

On Sunday, the Beef Plan Movement began a new wave of protests outside distribution centres owned by supermarkets, despite distancing itself from ongoing demonstrations at meat factories.

Forced

The latest developments in the crisis come as heavy rain over the last three weeks has forced farmers in the west and north-west to off-load both factory and store cattle ahead of the usual seasonal schedule

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Marts in these areas report increasing weekly numbers, while in the east and south, numbers are steady ahead of the Ploughing.

For now, good R grade store bullocks are commanding €2.00-2.20/kg in most marts, with better types on

And protesting farmers warn they are in for the long haul at the factory gates

€2.40/kg; plainer lots are back around the €1.70-1.80/kg mark. Angus and Herefords are operating from €1.70-1.80/kg, with better Friesians coming in around €1.50/kg.

However, anything with pronounced dairy breeding - be it Friesian, Hereford or Angus - is being sharply discounted, with some struggling to make a €1/kg.

On the weanling side the reopening of the Turkish market has helped steady the ship, with 280-360kg bulls trading in Mohill last week from €2.30-2.40/kg.

Factory base prices for bullocks are in the €3.45-3.50/kg range, with heifers on €3.55-3.60/kg.

On the supply side last week's kill was restricted to just 22,063, a long way short of the 38,459 from early September 2018.

Prices back then saw R3 and 4 bullocks averaging €3.90-4.00/kg, with heifers making up to €4.10/kg.

There are reports that bullocks were bought at a base of €3.40/kg last week as some farmers in wetter areas scrambled to get stock away.

Yesterday, ICSA president Edmond Phelan called on Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to reconsider its "kneejerk decision" to adjourn their participation in the beef crisis talks. He said their stance is simply "pressing the self-destruct button on the beef industry".

"The onus is on the processors now; it is up to them to come to the talks and to bring real offers to the table," he said.

Losses

"Current beef prices mean that every system of beef farming is losing money.

"The meat industry can no longer ignore the reality that beef farmers have to make a living, because without them making a living, there will be no future for their business either.

"Farmers cannot survive at current prices which are way below the cost of production.

"ICSA is adamant that each and every mechanism through which a sustainable beef price can be achieved must be explored.

"Cracks are beginning to show in the 30-month rule and equally the 70-day rule is becoming more and more difficult to justify.

"I urge MII to get to table and engage meaningfully with us on these important issues."

Indo Farming


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