Factories are 'stonewalling' beef producer group, claim opposition TDs

There will be no side deals - Dawn Meats

Michael Fitzmaurice
Michael Fitzmaurice
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Meat processors are 'stonewalling' a new beef farmers' producer group set up by the Beef Plan Movement, opposition TDs have claimed.

In a Dáil debate on the beef dispute last week, Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill said he had received anumber of complaints from members of the new group formed to negotiate on prices with factories.

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"They tell me that factories are refusing to negotiate with them on price," said Mr Cahill.

"If we are to get our industry back on any kind of level playing field, processors need to wake up and realise that they must respect farmers. If it is the case that these newly-formed producer groups are not being recognised by the processors, we have a serious problem."

Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, recently confirmed the official recognition of the first producer organisation (PO) under new legislation.

"I take my hat off to the people who seized the opportunity and who now recognise that the way to progress the partnership that should be at the heart of this industry is through producer organisations," Minister Creed said.

"There is plenty of room for more than one producer organisation. When people control significant numbers of cattle through a producer organisation, they have leverage in those negotiations - they can negotiate price and specification, and they can share risk and plan with greater certainty."

But Roscommon/Galway Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, said that despite Minister Creed hailing the recognition of producer groups as a great step forward, the factories are stonewalling farmers.

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"The Minister needs to put pressure on the processors and tell them that they have to engage," Deputy Fitzmaurice said.

These sentiments were echoed by Fianna Fáil's Anne Rabbitte, who said Minister Creed needs to intervene with the factories on the issue.

It has also emerged that the IFA sent a letter to the Minister earlier this year raising concerns that the requirements to become a formally recognised beef Producer Organisation were too onerous.

The IFA also told the Minister that it has become aware that some groups have been treated very unfairly by processors.

"It is clear that some additional measures will be needed to give additional protection to groups and farmers who take on leadership roles within the groups," the IFA warned.

In a statement Dawn Meats said it is happy to talk to anyone, but its current priority is dealing with its "loyal farmer suppliers" given the backlog that has built up during the protests.

Last week, Dawn rejected claims that it has engaged with protesters on potential pricing deals.

Meat Industry Ireland said engagement with producer organisations is a commercial matter and one for individual processors, but added that POs can make a positive contribution.

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