'It's the worst its been for five years' - Beef farmers protest over prices as factories warn things could get worse
Factory representatives give ominous warning for future beef prices
Factories have warned beef prices could fall further as beef farmers hold protests at a number of processing plants over a deepening crisis in the sector.
The Beef Plan Movement is holding a number of what it describes as 'peaceful protests' outside meat factories this week as it calls on members to not trade today.
It comes as the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed announced final details of how the €100m Brexit Beef Fund will be distributed, allowing some dairy farmers apply for the scheme.
Farmers protested outside ABP Bandon yesterday with further protests planned outside Kepak Athleague, Kepak Kilbeggan, Dawn Ballyhaunis and Rathdowney and Liffey Meats Ballinasloe today.
The Group is also calling on its members not to go to co-ops or marts or shop in rural towns to demonstrate the importance of the sector to rural Ireland.
It comes after the group staged a protest outside Aurivo on Friday where the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed was attending the official opening of Aurivo's new dryer in Ballaghadreen.
Two weeks on from the Beef Plan's protest outside Leinster House in Dublin, it says there has been "no attempt or correspondence from the Minister or his Department".
Protesters at Ballaghadreen, who surrounded the Minister's car, called him a "traitor" and asked why he would not recognise the Beef Plan Movement.
However, Meat Industry Ireland, which represents the processors, warned that UK retailers are increasingly unwilling to confirm their beef needs for the autumn as the uncertainty of Brexit continues to weigh on the market.
Meat Industry Ireland Director Cormac Healy said while he said he did not dispute the difficulty that faces the beef farmers, he said processors are returning market returns to farmers.
"It's a situation as bad as it has been for five years, driven by extreme market conditions.
"Brexit continues to undermine the market and create massive uncertainty.
"I don't deny the fact that farmers are under significant pressure and the price paid today is reflective of the market and disrupting normal processing activity is not going to help," he said.
Healy highlighted that the price of beef in the UK is almost on par with that here which he described as 'unprecedented'.
He said processors can only pay farmers what the market returns, stating that beef burger sales are down 14pc in recent months.
In an ominous warning for future beef prices, Healy also noted that there is 'huge unwillingness' for UK beef buyers to plan forward in terms of what they are doing for the autumn.
"We would like to think there would be some recovery in consumption, but the reality is we are facing this cloud of Brexit, and it remains uncertain, and it is going to be challenging," he stressed.
Meanwhile, Hugh Doyle of the Beef Plan Movement said the group's protest will increase in scale.
"We started with six yesterday and are inviting all farm organisations to join us."
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