Tuesday 24 October 2017

Plunging beef, milk prices spark fury among farmers

IFA president Eddie Downey. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.
IFA president Eddie Downey. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Declining food commodity prices are leading to farmer unrest in heated mass meetings across the country.

Close to 2,000 farmers turned up at two meetings in the east and west last week to vent their fury with the authorities and the leadership in Ireland's largest farm lobby group, the IFA.

They are struggling to deal with declining beef, milk and grain prices after record highs over the last two years.

Beef prices are down by 15pc over the last 12 months, while grain prices for this harvest are also down 15-20pc. Dairy returns have also begun to turn after a record run over during 2013.

Munster's largest dairy co-op, Dairygold, was the latest milk processor to announce that it was pulling prices last week by 2c/l to 35c/l.

However, the beef sector remains the main flashpoint due to the low profitability of the enterprise even when prices are high.

A group of farmers calling themselves 'Grassroots' have threatened to follow in the footsteps of another IFA splinter group, Hill Farmers for Action.

At a heated meeting in Navan last week, they accused the IFA leadership of being too close to the meat processors that are currently slashing the prices that farmers are being paid for their stock.

Part of the unrest centres on the fact that the IFA relies on meat processors to collect a 0.15pc levy on members' animals at the meat plants. However, the IFA has declined to disclose how much of its income is received from the meat processors.

Grassroots member Hugh Doyle said that IFA members are concerned. "You can't ask the organisation that you are trying to take on to organise your income for you as well," he said.

Instead, he wants to see farmers cut out meat processors altogether in order to get a fair price.

"Our industry is imploding at the moment and we have to decide whether we are going to take things into our own hands or let the processors dictate what happens to us," he said.

"I'm talking about a co-op situation where the farmers will get together, set up a processing factory and market their own beef."

However, Eddie Downey rejected the assertions, claiming that the IFA is "totally focused on challenging factories, retailers and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney over the unjustified cattle price cuts."

Hill farmers in the west also voiced their dissatisfaction with how they were being represented by their organisation at a massive meeting in Westport last week.

An estimated 1,700 farmers turned out for a meeting organised by IFA splinter group Hill Farmers for Action.

A motion that the IFA was not representing the views of hill and commonage farmers was overwhelmingly endorsed.

Irish Independent

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