Hopes rise for progress in beef dispute

Farmers and meat processors agree to talks

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is confident of making progress in the dispute between farmers and beef processors as both sides prepare to meet tomorrow.

The Beef Plan Movement, made up of farmers who are unhappy with the prices they are afforded for their animals, agreed to suspend its protests until after tomorrow's meeting.

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However, some individual farmers continued to hold smaller demonstrations at meat processing plants yesterday.

Beef Plan thanked members and supporters for their help yesterday and parties on both sides of the dispute have agreed to a virtual "radio silence" in advance of tomorrow's meeting at an undisclosed location.

Mr Creed will appoint an independent chairman to run the meeting and has already put an agreed agenda forward to farming representatives and members of the beef trade.

A spokesman for the minister said Mr Creed is hopeful tomorrow's meeting will bear fruit.

"The minister has brought forward an agreed agenda for the meeting and there are areas where there is scope for progress.

"The meeting is scheduled and we are hopeful that both parties will fulfil their obligations between now and the commencement of the meeting.

"We hope everyone comes to the table and engages in a positive manner."

The minister is expected to meet with farmers today and to hold informal discussions with individual groups at the Tullamore Show, an annual agricultural and livestock show, in Co Offaly.

Farmers picketed factories across the country last week and erected barricades blocking entrances at some sites in protest at the prices they are paid for animals.

This caused huge disruption for meat companies and led to threats of legal actions for costs and damages being issued to those who took part.

More than 20 factories were targeted, with 14 forced to shut their doors and lay off staff during last week because of the significant disruption.

Those legal actions have now been withdrawn at the minister's request as he liaised between the two sides of the dispute in recent days.

As a consequence, Beef Plan agreed to suspend its official protests ahead of discussions but some farmers continued to hold separate demonstrations yesterday morning, with sizeable crowds maintaining a presence outside factories in Cork and Kildare.

Meat Industry Ireland, which represents processors, had criticised the actions of some protesters at other sites before the Beef Plan action was officially suspended.

Beef Plan has been seeking what it sees as a fairer return for farmers with factory prices for bullocks and heifers down 40c per kilo compared with 12 months ago. Meanwhile, finishers have taken a hit of up to €150 on an average 370kg carcass.

It has also called for Mr Creed to review 13 policy and technical points it has raised as matters of concern with the meat industry, including the use of certain age limits for animals, the changing of weight thresholds and the clear provision terms of business by processors.

Sunday Independent