Fianna Fáil wants EU to probe meat industry profits as it backs actions

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil wants the European Commission to investigate the beef industry "from the farm to the table" to see who is making the most profits.

A significant number of the party's TDs have shown up at Beef Plan protests around the country in recent days.

The blockades have led to hundreds of staff being laid off temporarily while farmers who do want to sell animals are unable to do so.

"When things like this are protracted innocent parties very often suffer," MEP Billy Kelleher told the Irish Independent. He said the dispute could end quickly if the factories ensure that farmers are given a fair price for their produce.

"The bottom line here is that nobody is split in what they want to achieve, which is a fair price for the beef.

"The question is how you go about that. Beef prices have been flat for a very long time. This has been brewing for a long time."

He said meat factories and the broader industry have to accept that farmers can no longer produce meat at loss-making prices.

"Those protesting are trying to bring it to a head. Both retailers and factories have a role in this. Retailers can't be expected to profit without passing something back."

Mr Kelleher intends to ask the European Commission to probe the beef market here to establish whether some sectors are making undue profits.

Sinn Féin is also backing the protests, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald visiting one picket in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, this week.

"Beef farmers do not want to be on the picket lines. They are there because they believe they have no choice, that their livelihoods are under threat and that the family farm model in which they operate will cease to exist unless drastic action is taken," she said.

The Dublin TD said the minister must insist that Meat Industry Ireland meets with farm organisations without preconditions.

"The fact that the industry has been willing to threaten legal action against farmers and lay off workers rather than engage in talks has been telling," she said.

"The meat plant workers have been innocent victims in this dispute, their livelihoods also depend on a speedy resolution to this situation."

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed had offered to help facilitate talks, and last night Beef Plan agreed to halt its factory gate protests to allow discussions to take place.

Labour's Willie Penrose, who visited protesters in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, had called for an independent chair to head up the talks between the Beef Plan movement and farm representatives with the processing sector.

"Farmers across Ireland are responding to the collapse of their incomes and want all stakeholders to play their part.

"As the primary producers of a quality product it is essential that they receive a greater share of the profit from the beef that they produce," the former minister said.

Irish Independent