It's business as usual for now as the factory bosses size up their options

Factories

Photo: Gerry Mooney
Photo: Gerry Mooney
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing and is as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical," was the verdict of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States.

By the time you read this we may and may not have gotten a result from yesterday's talks between farm representatives and Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

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Whatever the result, the Beef Plan protesters are due great credit for pushing the future of Irish beef farming to the fore. There may have been unwelcome elements from inside and outside of the farming community that made this protest unsavoury at times but with last week's kill back to just 16,085 the factories had no choice but to agree to talks.

Farmer representation, like sport, however is a results-based business, and if IFA chose not to support Beef Plan during the discussions are their troops willing to resume the fight?

On the other side, if MII pursue a 'no compromise' policy they run the risk of uniting all the farm organisations behind Beef Plan and that's the last thing they will want.

In the meantime, with a few exceptions, the majority of factories have begun to return to normal. Factory quotes appeared fluid yesterday but the general run seems to be €3.50-3.55/kg for bullocks with heifers on €3.60-3.65/kg.

Some reports indicate that a number of plants operated on Saturday with other reports noting that factory agents were keenest to acquire bullocks and heifers as processors strive to refill their chills ahead of renewing contracts.

I also had reports that the Angus bonus has been lifted to 20c/kg in places.

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Prices for bulls remain as they have done for the last number of weeks with U grades priced from 3.40-3.60/kg, Rs on €3.30-3.50/kg and Os back around €3.10-3.20/kg. Cull cows appear also to be holding with R grades in the €2.90-3.10/kg range, with O grades on €2.70-2.80/kg and better P grades around the €2.70/kg mark.

The decision by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to issue a warning of possible legal action against those at the top of the Beef Plan Movement took the farming world totally by surprise over the weekend.

'Cartels'

With Minister Creed's invitation to talks accepted by the majority of Beef Plan members and a very tense situation gradually being diffused, the intervention of the CCPC at this critical time is unhelpful. ICSA's president Edmond Phelan was very scathing in his criticism apart from digs at alleged factory cartels.

"CCPC must be wilfully ignoring the purpose of EU regulation 1308/2013 which actively encourages the setting up of beef producer groups to jointly sell beef, provided that each individual group does not account for more than 15pc of the total national production," he said.

"A few thousand farmers protesting for two weeks outside meat plants is a long way from controlling 15pc of national production."

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