More beef price pressure on way, warn processors

Farmers preparing to escalate protests as losses from price slump hit €4m per week

The beef sector is facing 'extremely challenging market conditions' because of Brexit
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Processors have warned that beef prices could fall further and farmers have ramped up protests at meat factories as the crisis in the sector deepens.

MII (Meat Industry Ireland), which represents processors, says British retailers are increasingly unwilling to confirm orders for the autumn as Brexit uncertainty leaves the market in limbo.

"As Irish processors and exporters seek to establish some forward sales plans with customers, this is being frustrated by the uncertainty attached to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit outcome resulting in an unwillingness by customers to commit," said MII senior director Cormac Healy.

He added that the sector is facing "extremely challenging market conditions" because of Brexit, and maintained that Brexit and the prospect of a no-deal outcome are to blame for weak beef and cattle prices.

Mr Healy said that while processors are "fully cognisant of the frustration of beef producers, protests which disrupt normal business operations and the orderly processing of cattle will do nothing to resolve the challenges in the marketplace".

His comments came as the Beef Plan Movement started a series of protests outside meat factories on Sunday. It is planning to scale up the number of protests this week.

It's understood that vets did not pass some of the protests at meat factories yesterday. We will scale it up as the week goes on and if there is no engagement from the factories, then we stay there," said group chairman Hugh Doyle.

Beef cull

New figures show that the slump in beef prices over the last two months is costing farmers €4m per week.

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And fears are growing that a mass cull of the national beef herd will be a central part of the Government's climate action strategy over the next decade following.

The Government's Climate Change Advisory Council has proposed reducing suckler beef numbers by between 500,000 to 1.5 million while 'protecting' the continued expansion of the dairy sector.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said yesterday that a cull cannot be ruled out if farmers do not embrace measures contained within the Government's Climate Action Plan.

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