It began as WhatsApp groups with a beef - and is now causing chaos in beef industry

Outcry: Beef farmers protest over prices at the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Outcry: Beef farmers protest over prices at the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Ciarán Moran

What is the Beef Plan Movement?

Originating in Co Meath in late 2018, the Beef Plan Movement was established by farmers unhappy with their representation by traditional farm organisations and centred around a plan it developed to radically change the beef industry. They set up WhatsApp groups for farmers and held a number of public meetings to grow membership. It claims to have more than 15,000 members.

Who are its leaders?

Eamon Corley and Hugh Doyle are its co-chairmen. Mr Corley was Meath IFA livestock chairman before setting up the group with Mr Doyle, a farmer from Summerhill, Meath. In 2014, Mr Doyle was involved in a splinter group of 'grassroots' farmers within the IFA.

Why are farmers protesting?

The Beef Plan group said it had asked the processors through Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to make what it considers a reasonable proposal on what they intend to do that returns a cost of production plus a margin to beef farmers - in the context that the consumer is now paying more for beef in the shops, while the farmer is being paid considerably less.

Click here to view full-size graphic
Click here to view full-size graphic

What is the current beef price situation?

With factory prices for bullocks and heifers back some 40c/kg on this time last year, finishers are facing a hit of up to €150/hd on a 370kg carcass.

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Farmers finishing bulls have taken an even bigger hit with prices per head back up to €180.

Why are beef prices so bad?

Commentators have pointed to continued strong supplies, weak sterling and a downturn in British beef demand as contributors to poor returns.

The crisis is not isolated to Ireland with the beef price gap between Ireland and the UK, which is usually significant, virtually disappearing in recent weeks.

Where are the protests?

Members of the organisation are staging a 24-hour picket outside meat factories across the country. The protests have caused significant disruption with processing brought to a halt in a number of factories. The group is also encouraging farmers not to take cattle to factories while the protest is ongoing.

Farmers are protesting since July 28. Since then the number of factories with pickets has risen to about 20. Both sides have accused the other of intimidation.

Why is the IFA not involved?

The IFA has said that while it fully understands the frustration and anger of beef farmers, the view was that the best strategy at this time is to continue to focus its lobbying efforts on the EU institutions and the Government.

What is the Agriculture Minister saying?

A spokesperson for Michael Creed said neither the Minister nor the Department can legally have any role in determining the prices for beef or any other commodity, nor can the Department directly intervene in the determination of prices.

The Minister has urged the stakeholders to recognise their interdependence. He also called on processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development.

Why is the Irish beef sector so important?

It accounts for more than one-third of all agricultural output and more than 20pc of total Irish food and drink exports.

The agri-food sector in general provides direct and indirect employment to more than 300,000 people with 13,000 employed in the meat processing sector alone.

The value of beef exports is growing and exceeded €2.6bn in 2017. Domestic consumption of Irish beef accounted for a further €230m last year. In all, the value of the Irish beef sector is estimated to be almost €2.9bn.

Irish Independent

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