Beef Trade: Out-of-spec or overage stock look set for a hammering

Factories

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Questioned as to whether the pickets currently outside beef plants will continue Beef Plan joint national chairman, Hugh Doyle, said over the weekend that the organisation intended to "scale up protests".

If Mr Doyle and his followers make good on this commitment the effect could be the backing up of further significant numbers in the system. That is assuming all those with stock to sell don't pass the picket.

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I attended three of these protests last week, one outside a plant in Waterford, one in south Kilkenny and another at Bandon. Each was very effective in disrupting supplies.

What was obvious from speaking with those present is that the issues involved run far deeper than just immediate pricing.

Many of those I spoke with believe that after a lifetime of dedication to a farming model based on the EU's cheap food policy they feel cheated. As one man said to me: "I started farming cattle 30 years ago. They told me I could rear my family, they lied."

This scenario is the ideal for the Beef Plan Movement, soft focus reasoned discussion. However, with two individuals already hospitalised because of incidents at other plants, questions have to be asked as to how much control Mr Doyle and those at the top really have over the actions of those on the frontline.

As I see it the factories have three choices. One, wait the protesters out. Two, apply through the courts to have the pickets moved, or three close their doors and fill their supermarket contracts with produce from their plants on the continent or in the UK.

This protest has been very successful in exposing the vulnerability of the processing sector to determined farmer action but without discussions Beef Plan can't get a result.

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TD Denis Naughton, among others, has urged Minister Creed to convene a meeting of all those involved to attempt to reach some sort of understanding. This would involve the Beef Plan movement being formally recognised.

If that happens those farm organisations who have presided over the decline in the fortunes of cattle farmers would be the ones under the most pressure.

On the prices front, solid quotes were hard to come by yesterday as factories turned off the supply of information. "How can we quote when we don't know if we'll get the cattle" was the general line.

Logic however would dictate that anything that does make it across the line will be paid at last week's price.

Factories had been attempting to pull bullocks under the €3.50/kg base mark and heifers below €3.60/kg, once everything calms down will that pressure resume?

Several agents I spoke with calculated that the best farmers could hope for short term was that in-spec bullocks and heifers would be left alone but that anything out of spec or over age could get hammered.

The men with the bulls have had a very rough time of it this year and last week's pickets didn't help. Not being able to get stock, who are pushing up on age, away is hugely frustrating.

Indo Farming


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