Under-pressure Creed says he cannot 'legally' intervene in beef price dispute

Protesters outside Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Photo Brian Farrell
Protesters outside Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Photo Brian Farrell
Farmers escalated their Beef Plan movement protest at Bandon on Wedensday.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A spokesperson for the Minister for Agriculture has stressed that neither he nor the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine can legally have any role in determining the prices for beef or any other commodity.

The Beef Plan Movement is set to continue its protests at meat factory gates as Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed comes under increased pressure to intervene in the dispute.

Fianna Fáil and the Treasurer of IFA have joined a new chorus of calls, including from former minister Denis Naughten, for Mr Creed to bring both sides to the table to find a resolution to the dispute.

The Minister Michael Creed's Spokesperson said its not the Department of Agriculture's role to comment on commercial decisions taken by private entities in an open market. 

"That being said, at the most recent Beef Roundtable (which farming groups declined to attend), the Minister urged the stakeholders to recognise their interdependence and he also called on processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development.

"It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be improved if the industry is to build a sector for the future," the spokesperson said.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed

Recent months have seen beef farmers hit with a host of blows including Brexit fallout, Mercosur and US trade deals, and increased pressure over their environmental performance.

Late last week, US President Donald Trump hailed a deal to sell more American beef to Europe - a move which farmers have described as another example of beef farmers being sacrificed for other sectors.

Processors have so far refused to engage with the Beef Plan Movement until the protests are called off, despite significant disruption to processing last week.

A spokesperson for the Beef Plan group said it had asked the processors through Meat Industry Ireland to make what it considers a reasonable proposal on what they intend to do that returns a cost of production plus a margin to beef farmers in the context that the consumer is now paying more for beef in the shops while the farmer is being paid "considerably less".

Responsibility

In a statement yesterday, IFA national treasurer Tim Cullinan accused Mr Creed of "abdicating responsibility".

He added: "This crisis has been in the making for over a year and yet the minister has completely failed to face up to it. He is in denial and standing idly by while cattle prices are in freefall.

"It is unthinkable that a sector of the size and significance of the beef industry has been ignored by the minister responsible. In no other sector of comparable scale would this have been allowed to happen."

Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said it was high time the minister for agriculture became engaged and tried to address the growing crisis in the beef sector.

"Beef farmers are on their knees with prices at a low that hasn't been seen for many years. It's simply not sustainable for the Government to expect farmers to continue to carry such heavy losses. The minister must roll up his sleeves and seek to address the frustration that has led farmers to the picket lines this week," he said.

His calls were echoed by Mr Creed's former cabinet colleague Denis Naughten, who called on the minister to convene an emergency summit of all the key players in the beef sector in light of the growing tensions between farmers, processors and those regulating the beef sector.

Irish Independent