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Beef protesters could face a showdown with farmers anxious to offload stock

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With many factories blockaded again yesterday and supplies building in the system, are we in danger of seeing a tipping point being reached?

Are we close to a point where those with cattle to sell face off against those blockading the factories?

Pushing that tipping point closer, especially in the west, is the fact that after three weeks of poor weather, ground conditions in some places have deteriorated to the point that the only realistic option facing farmers with heavy factory cattle is to get them sold.

Housing animals would result in the stock slacking back, not to mind the extra costs involved.

Face-offs

Sources west of the Shannon have told me that the prospect of serious face-offs between these two groups of farmers is now a real possibility.

Many of those protesting in the west and midlands appear to be suckler farmers and part-timers. One man claimed that the reason the protests get bigger in the evenings is "a lot of these lads are just coming from their day jobs".

Further south the weather has been far kinder, and while those with stock to sell are not best pleased at not being able to get cattle away, they are generally continuing to await a peaceful resolution.

For those able to get cattle away, there is no change in prices as per the above table, with bullocks continuing to be quoted at €3.45-3.50/kg and heifers on €3.55-3.60/kg.

Figures from Britain show that they exported 62,632 tonnes of beef during the first six months of this year, up 6,102 tonnes or 11pc on the same period for 2018.

Of this 62,632 tonnes the largest proportion, 19,077 tonnes, was exported to the Republic.

One of the questions being asked by those protesting at present is, do we actually know what quality assurance and country of origin labels factories here are using when they finish whatever it is they do with that imported beef?

Along with the hostility directed at the factories, there is real anger among beef protesters at what they perceive as the failures of both the IFA and Bord Bia to protect farmer interests.

The IFA is accused of being more interested in collecting levies than in actually putting pressure on the factories and supermarkets on beef prices.

In relation to Bord Bia the message at the factory gates is that beef farmers no longer trust them.

With information now emerging from the likes of Lidl and Supermacs that they have no issue taking cattle up to 36 months of age, Bord Bia faces very serious questions around the 30-month cut-off and what outlets are actually insistent upon it.

"We trusted them [Bord Bia] to keep the game some way honest" was the comment from those protesting outside the Dawn Meats plant in south Kilkenny on Sunday.

Indo Farming