Meat factories forced to temporarily lay off staff due to Beef Plan 'blockades'
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 (MII) confirmed that nine meat factories have stopped working and industry sources say Dawn Meats has temporarily laid off staff at three of its plants.
Following intense pressure the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has contacted the Beef Plan Movement to enter into talks a move which he claims has been rejected.
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 were 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 statements, Beef Plan is adhering to its peaceful protest guidelines and indeed suspending protests if there are breaches of the guidelines outside any factory," they said.
"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 MII 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".
Beef Plan chairman Hugh Doyle said beef farmers were 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 hand-outs - a fair price for a premium product is the request," the group said in a statement.
"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 farmer's 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."
In a statement to the Irish Independent, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said he fully recognised the right to legitimate peaceful protest. However, he urged 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 could have any role in determining the prices for beef, or any commodity.
The Beef Plan said it wanted the minister to bring in a form of fair trade legislation to show support for beef farmers.
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