Beef talks still 'a delicate situation'

Munster Beef Plan Chair says “some progress has been made”

Protesters outside Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Photo Brian Farrell
Protesters outside Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Photo Brian Farrell

Tadhg Evans

South West Beef Plan Movement Chairperson Dermot O'Brien said he is hopeful talks can resume with Meat Industry Ireland in the coming days, and he feels "progress has been made" after marathon talks drew to a close on Tuesday morning between the Movement, Meat Industry Ireland, Department of Agriculture officials, and representatives of other farming bodies.

The Beef Plan Movement, which aims to safeguard the future of Irish beef farmers, began protesting outside meat factories around Ireland in late July.

By the time the protests were suspended last Friday, August 9, the pickets had spread to around 20 factories.

The Department of Agriculture said last Friday that the Movement and Meat Industry Ireland had accepted Minister Michael Creed's 'compromise proposals' and that "All protests at meat-processing plants and legal proceeding are to be suspended with immediate effect until the agreed talks have concluded".

Monday's meeting in the Department's regional offices in Backweston, County Kildare, continued until the early hours of Tuesday morning (August 13).

"This is a delicate situation, which requires further negotiation," Mr O'Brien said in a statement to The Corkman this week.

"I am delighted to announce that there was unity at yesterday's forum between all farm organisations. A draft document is currently being written up and, hopefully, if there is agreement by MII on key issues, we will meet again.

"The 13 points put forward for discussion were hammered out over a 12-hour marathon, and I certainly feel that progress has been made.

"The national committee will review the proposals of the meeting, and these will be brought back to the people, who stood on the peaceful protest, for approval," he said.

"We would continue to ask farmers to give talks a chance in order to allow progress and not do anything that would jeopardise progress in the future," Mr O'Brien added.

Farmers will pay a nominal charge for factories to provide a lairage weighing service for live cattle, according to a draft document from the ongoing beef discussions between farming organisation and Meat Industry Ireland.

The document, which has been seen by the Farming Independent, sets out three outstanding issues with the parties set to reconvene on Monday for further discussions.

Two of the three issues have agreement in principle, according to the document, including the provision of weighing facilities for live cattle at factory lairages. According to the document, the meat factories through Meat Industry Ireland (MII) have agreed to providing this service, but "at a nominal charge".

The document also says that written agreement can be provided by factories if requested when agreements are finalised between processor and suppliers on the terms of the sale.

It's understood the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed is expected to attend next Monday's meeting at Backweston.

A draft terms of reference on a review of the grid is to be circulated by Friday 16 August to the stakeholders.

The moves come as beef farmers brace themselves for further price cuts, as some meat factories plan to cut the price being offered by as much as €20/head.