Factories forced to lay off staff as Beef Plan protests continue

Hospitality aplenty from all over for members of the Beef Plan Movement picketing Meadow Meats, Rathdowney, Co. Laois. From left: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Tom Delaney, William Fitzpatrick and Michael Kelly.
Photograph: Alf Harvey.
Hospitality aplenty from all over for members of the Beef Plan Movement picketing Meadow Meats, Rathdowney, Co. Laois. From left: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Tom Delaney, William Fitzpatrick and Michael Kelly. Photograph: Alf Harvey.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

A number of meat factories have been forced to lay off staff temporarily as the Beef Plan protest enters its 12th day.

Meat Industry Ireland confirmed that nine meat factories have stopped working and industry sources say Dawn Meats has temporarily laid off staff at three of its plants as the protest enters its 12th day.

The Beef Plan is calling for a meaningful proposal to give farmers a fair share of the retail margin of beef.

A spokesperson for the group said there are plans to mobilise further protests as frustration with the ongoing beef price offered to farmers has seen no engagement from the main stakeholders.

"Contrary to Meat Industry Ireland (MII) statements, Beef Plan are adhering to their peaceful protest guidelines and indeed suspending protests if there are breaches of the guidelines outside any factory.

"Responsibility for a peaceful protest lies with both sides – hauliers and persons entering the factory need to be cognisant of the presence of families including children at the protests as there have been many examples of aggressive driving observed."

Both sides have accused each other of intimidating behaviour, with Meat Industry Ireland saying the “illegal blockading” has halted production in nine factories, while other factories are operating at minimal levels.

It also said some of these protests have been joined by non-farming elements “that has added a sinister undertone.”

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Beef Plan Chairman Hugh Doyle said beef farmers are price takers and completely at the mercy of other stakeholders in the beef supply chain.

“The Government must act to enforce greater transparency in the beef supply chain and enforce the findings of the EU Agricultural Markets Taskforce to avoid unfair trading practices in the food supply chain.”

Official figures from the Department of Agriculture show the beef kill for last week was down 16pc.

According to the Beef Plan it is waiting for some engagement from the government and MII on these issues. “Farmers do not want or expect handouts – a fair price for a premium product is the request.

“The farmer percentage of the final retail price has been reduced significantly over the years. All of the burden with respect to regulation is at the farmers door, input prices for farmers have increased and the beef price to the consumer has increased if anything.”

“Somebody is making money out of the beef sector and it certainly isn’t the farmer.”

The Minister for Agriculture said, in a statement to the Irish Independent, that he fully recognises the right to legitimate peaceful protest, however he is urging both parties to meet and discuss the issues at stake, in the interests of all farmers at a very challenging time for the industry.

He also said neither he nor his Department can have any role in determining the prices for beef, or any commodity. However, the Beef Plan says it is looking for the Minister to bring in a form of fair trade legislation to show some solidarity and support for beef farmers.

MII has said they will only engage when the protest stands down.

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