Beef farmers won't rule out further protests with more price cuts expected

Ballymahon Mart Longford. Photo Brian Farrell
Ballymahon Mart Longford. Photo Brian Farrell
Stock photo.

Ciaran Moran and Margaret Donnelly

Beef farmers are bracing for further cuts to their income, as some meat factories plan to slash the price offered by as much as €20-a-head of cattle.

The amount a farmer ultimately gets depends on weight and animal type, but the planned price reduction means the price will be around €3.45 per kilogram.

Farmers say they need at least €4 per kilogram to break even.

It comes after the Beef Plan movement called off a two-week protest outside meat factories over poor beef prices to allow talks take place.

During the protest, the number of cattle killed at factories reduced by as much as 57pc, with kill numbers up significantly this week as factories returned to normal.

The group, along with other farming organisations, met with representatives from the meat factories on Monday for talks that lasted 12 hours, but according to the Beef Plan's chairman Hugh Doyle the talks were "disappointing".

Another meeting between the farming groups and meat factory representatives is expected to take place on Monday, and it's expected that the Agriculture Minister will attend next week's meeting.

Mr Doyle said the Beef Plan could not rule out protesting again, but admitted he did not go into the talks expecting to get a price rise for farmers.

"I'm not ruling it out or in to go protesting again, if we feel we are hitting our heads off a stone wall.

"This is the last-chance saloon, if this fails it's curtains for everyone.

"I know a lot of farmers will be disappointed as we did not come back with a price rise," he said.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) had warned prices could not be discussed at the meeting.

"At no stage going in did I think I would get a price rise. But if we can change the model and environment and put the responsibility to create sustainability, it will be good for farmers," Mr Doyle said.

He also said it was very disappointing the retailers were not in the meeting, because he believed that to ensure a fair trade beef price for farmers, the retailers must be brought to the table.

This, he said, would help farmers but a fair trade beef price must be found to ensure beef farmers have a sustainable income.

A working document seen by the Irish Independent said the beef sector was facing considerable uncertainty, which is contributing to downward pressure on beef prices.

It's understood a number of key items, including the provision of weighing scales at factories to weigh cattle prior to slaughter and a review of the QPS, or grid cattle pricing system, were discussed while commitment was given on a base price for beef farmers.

It's understood the terms of reference for a review of the cattle grid/grading system are to be agreed before tomorrow.

Irish Independent