Farmers back on picket lines after 'failure' of beef talks

Road block: Farmers and managers from Dawn Meats, Grannagh in Co Waterford, try to negotiate. PHOTOS: Frank McGrath
Road block: Farmers and managers from Dawn Meats, Grannagh in Co Waterford, try to negotiate. PHOTOS: Frank McGrath
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Disgruntled beef farmers in the midlands brought a number of meat-processing facilities to a standstill yesterday following a second wave of unofficial protests.

More than a dozen protesters in Co Waterford, who are not representatives of any farm lobby group, spent the day blocking lorries from entering and exiting two plants - an ABP facility in Ferrybank and a Dawn Meats one in Grannagh.

It's also understood more than 30 farmers gathered at the gates of ABP in Cahir, Co Tipperary to protest over the price they are receiving.

Individual farmers have returned to the picket lines after what has been described as a "disappointing" conclusion to negotiations between farm organisations and the meat industry last week.

Beef farmers are reeling from what was the strongest decline in prices in any EU market during the last month, according to new figures from the European Commission.

Outside Dawn Meats in Co Waterford, farmers were seen at one stage negotiating with the facility's management. They said they would allow two trucks to leave the site if Dawn Meats agreed not to let in any more lorries.

At the ABP facility in Ferrybank, one driver was seen attempting to exit the plant, but was prevented from doing so by the demonstrators.

One of the ABP protesters, who did not want to be named, said they were ready to do "whatever it takes" for a better deal. "I should be working away on the farm right now, but we may as well be broke here rather than being broke at home," he said.

"The Beef Ireland negotiations weren't any use whatsoever. The Minister for Agriculture [Michael Creed] went into the talks and said he got a great result but in reality he achieved nothing.

"All we want is a fair price. If you go back 15 years ago, we were getting 42pc - and now we're down to just 20pc.

"I believe protests like these will make a big impact on the beef industry. We're prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve a fairer deal," he said.

Marathon talks to resolve a dispute between farmers and processors concluded last Monday, despite disagreement on critical issues for farmers.

The Irish Farmers Association is again calling on retailers and the EU Commission to become part of discussions between the meat industry and farmers' group, the Beef Plan Movement.

Farm organisations have noted farmers will be disappointed there was no increase in the price of beef, with the talks taking place on the precondition that price would not be discussed.

The talks came after the Beef Plan Movement called off a two-week protest to meet with meat factory representatives, which in turn temporarily halted legal action against members of the group.

A spokesperson for Mr Creed said he was available to talk with all farm organisations.

"It should be noted, however, that the protests now commenced at meat-processing plants are not endorsed by any farm organisation," the spokesperson said.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said it was "very disappointing" protests had resumed at some beef-processing sites.

"Beef price remains a major talking point since the conclusions of the beef talks last week. But beef price was not and could not be discussed during these talks," said MII director Cormac Healy.

"Furthermore, price is determined by conditions in the market at present, which are acknowledged by all as being extremely challenging. There simply isn't more in the marketplace right now."

Irish Independent