Blockades at meat factories end but beef market faces new struggles
The final blockades at meat factories across the country were lifted over the weekend, but facilities are running at a reduced capacity this week.
Beef protests affecting Liffey Meats facilities in Cavan and Galway have been officially stood down.
The protesters were the final pickets to step back after a historic almost eight-week dispute over beef prices.
Farmers picketed the gates of meat plants across Ireland to highlight their struggle for survival because of beef prices being at their lowest in years.
The end of the protests means a new agreement between farm organisations and farmers can now take effect.
The weekend agreement included proposals to establish a Beef Market Taskforce to provide a governance structure to enhance the future viability of the beef industry.
However, over the last two months there has been a backlog of around 100,000 cattle as a result of the protests over beef prices.
Farm organisations fear that this overhang of stock could affect prices.
The Independent Farmers of Ireland (IFI) reiterated its support for the recent agreement between the factories and farm organisations, stating that it provided "a solid foundation for the future".
"The agreement is the beginning of something new, and although there are still many problems that face the beef industry in Ireland, it feels farmers can face them now from a different position than the picket lines," said an IFI spokesperson.
"The newly proposed [Beef] Taskforce will have the power to oversee all this, and therefore, the implementation of the proposed solutions is crucial."
Meanwhile, a number of meat factories have raised concerns that serious labour shortages at the country's meat slaughtering plants are curtailing the beef industry's capacity to return to full production in the wake of the recent farmer protests.
IFA president Joe Healy said that as factories reopen, they must pay the increased bonuses in the deal with immediate effect.
"Factories should come forward with a strong base price and pay the new bonuses," he said.
Separately, sheep farmers have reported facing losses of up to €400,000 as a result of the factory protests.
Close to 70,000 lambs have backed up on sheep holdings in recent weeks due to the farmer blockades.
Both the farm organisations and factories have warned producers stand to lose significantly as a consequence, with stock moving outside strict weight and fat specifications.
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