Farmers slam competition watchdog over warning to beef protesters

Picket: Farmers talk to a driver at Kepak in Clonee, Co Meath. PHOTO: FRANK McGRATH
Picket: Farmers talk to a driver at Kepak in Clonee, Co Meath. PHOTO: FRANK McGRATH
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers have heavily criticised the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) over its legal warning on protesting outside meat plants.

It comes as talks between representatives of the meat processing industry, the Minister for Agriculture and farm organisations will take place in a bid to bring an end to a two-week-long beef dispute which has wreaked havoc on the beef industry.

The Farming Independent revealed that the CCPC had engaged with the Beef Plan Movement (BPM) in relation to the action which was taking place at processing factories throughout the country.

It was concerned BPM's plans and actions were "to organise what appears to be a collective boycott by beef farmers of beef plants, with the intention to force an increase in the price of beef, has raised concerns".

It's the second legal issue Beef Plan faced, with organisers facing threatened legal action from the meat factories.

A number of factories issued legal letters to Beef Plan on Thursday night, saying they would face action if the protests were not called off.

The IFA President Joe Healy said the letter sent by Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to farmers involved in the Beef Plan Movement shows that the current rules and enforcement structure in the area is a complete joke.

“They need to be replaced with a new regulator who acts for all parties in the chain,” he said.

“If anyone needs to be investigated, it is the meat factories. The Competition Authority has previously raided the IFA offices and threatened us and other farmers on numerous occasions. The CCPC is not fit for purpose from a farmer’s point of view,” he said.

However, ICSA president Edmond Phelan has slammed the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) for threatening legal action against the Beef Plan Movement in advance of talks to resolve the beef dispute on Monday.

“The CCPC has some brass neck to go terrorising a group of farmers after giving the green light to the ABP group to further consolidate their dominant position by taking over the Slaney Group in 2016.

"At that time, the effect was to consolidate 26pc of the total cattle kill under one single ownership,” he said.

"It is time for an Oireachtas investigation into the CCPC to enquire why they are threatening powerless farmers whose position - year after year – has continuously worsened to its current desperate state.

"The CCPC was like a lamb in dealing with processors, but is acting like a wolf with a group of farmers who are on their knees," Mr Phelan said.

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy has also said that retailers and the EU Commission must be included in the talks which are understood to be Chaired by former Department of Agriculture secretary general Michael Dowling.

Speaking at the Tullamore Show, Joe Healy said, while the factories are the main problem, the retailer has a dominant role in the dysfunctional food chain that is not working for beef farmers.

"They need to be around the table tomorrow to account for their actions and to outline how they intend to address the problem”.

 Joe Healy also said the EU Commission needs to be represented to explain why they are allowing the EU beef market to be totally undermined with imports which fail to meet EU standards and also to outline their plans and supports for the Irish and EU beef sector in Brexit.

Online Editors