Beef farmers across Wexford are going out of business as disputes over prices show no signs of resolution. A picket outside of Slaney Foofs in Bunclody last week highlighted the increasing disquiet among local farmers who claim they aren't receiving a fair price for their produce.
These recent protests come off the back of the creation of the Beef Plan Movement (BPM), an organisation working on behalf of beef farmers throughout Ireland which is run and chaired by the farmers themselves and was created with the aim of securing better prices for individual farmers.
It claims that for every €10 spent on beef in this country the farmer receives just €2 with the rest shared between the retailers and the processors.
Although not involved in the picketing at Bunclody, representatives from the Beef Plan Movement have been in discussions with the Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Michael Creed, in the hope of introducing price controlling measures for their stock.
However, following those discussions, a statement released by the BPM said that Minister Creed had failed to deliver for the working farmer and that the issue remained unresolved.
Brian Byrne is the Chairman of the Wexford Beef Plan Movement Committee and he has seen first-hand the impact of this ongoing dispute.
'The smaller farmers are going out of business. The factories might miss a few days because of the picketing but the farmers are going out of business. There's farmers in Wexford who this is happening to. But as long as the factories are making money they're happy. The supermarkets are a problem too, the factories and the supermarkets are always going to make the money,' said Mr Byrne.
Since its formation less than a year ago, the Beef Plan Movement has seen its numbers rise from 300 to over 20,000 and it now has committees in 25 counties across the country. One of its primary aims is ensuring small farmers in this country receive the cost of production plus a margin for their livestock.
'All the farmer wants at the end of the day is the cost of production and some margin, nothing out of the ordinary or above the norm. we know the price of meat is down but we still need our share. If you look at the price of meat on the shelf and then look at what the farmer is getting, there's a huge difference on what we're getting,' explains Mr Byrne.
Meanwhile, Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council, Michael Sheehan has called upon Minister Creed to intervene in the beef dispute warning that the situation could 'spiral out of control' unless a satisfactory solution is found.
'Minister Creed needs to intervene in the beef dispute immediately. The atmosphere is becoming sinister and before it spirals out of control, he needs to intervene and broker a solution all sides can live with. He can convene talks and resolve this issue instead of leaving both sides to spar it out in court and the media. The scenes of the last few days bore ominous signs of a situation increasingly sinister. Something bad could well happen,' said the Cathaoirleach.
Lending his support to local farmers, Cllr Sheehan called the dispute 'terrible' for Wexford's economy and said the beef industry is of vital importance to the county.
'The beef industry is a vital industry to our county's economy, our community and way of life. Farmers deserve a fairer deal. There is a considerable irony to see companies making multi-million euro profits while farmers get pennies; especially as prices languishing in the floor at €3.45 per kilo. This dispute is bad for industry, bad for farmers, bad for consumers and overall terrible for county Wexford's economy. The government can and must resolve this to protect farmers and consumers.'
'If it's a question of increased prices or a better settlement for farmers then we will have to address that- in comparison to some most comparable foreign beef.
'Our meat is much higher standard and better quality. There is a situation where it's a win for consumers, farmers and the companies,' said the Cathaoirleach.