Latest: It is time for cool heads and warm hearts on both sides in the beef dispute according to SIPTU agri sector representative Terry Bryan who warned that the industry is in danger of “self destruction.”
Mr Bryan also pointed out that some non-EU workers in the meat processing plants who have been laid off this week will not be eligible for social welfare payments.
SIPTU is calling on the Government to establish an additional support fund for workers which should be contributed to by employers, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
Mr Bryan called on protesting farmers to consider the proposals agreed between farming organisations and the meat industry in talks last weekend.
Workers are “extremely worried”, he said. “I heard the Minister talking about ‘self harm’, this industry is now at risk of self destruction.
“There needs to be calm heads, there needs to be cool heads. Examine the proposals in detail.
Mr Bryan said that continued protests and continued legal action are not going to solve the issue.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has warned that “real self harm” is being inflicted on the Irish beef industry by the ongoing dispute between farmers and processors.
Farmers need to look at the bigger picture he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Ireland’s reputation is important in the global beef industry, but the industry is now at tipping point he said. "We are now witnessing self harm."
Mr Creed added that there was a need for the sector to re-engage and reassure customers. He acknowledged that the price for beef is depressed, but Ireland is at the European average, he said.
Farmers’ voices have been heard, he said. “This is as much as can be done. We’re at tipping point. I do acknowledge that it is a difficult time for farmers. The global beef market is extremely competitive.
Mr Creed said it was unfortunate that the bigger picture was that the damage being inflicted on processors will have an even bigger impact on the industry internationally.
Legally there had been nothing that could be done about prices in last weekend’s talks, he said.
On the same programme, the President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, said the ICMSA had worked with beef farmers involved in protests to try to secure a better deal for them as his organisation has a "major stake in the game".
The situation had built up following a decade of low and eroding margins, he said, adding that no business could sustain that. Mr McCormack also said it was important that a frictionless border remains following Brexit.
He warned that costs will escalate if border checks are introduced and the sector would become very uncompetitive.
Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy has said concessions cannot be made on the backstop as the UK “cannot be allowed to go off and make trade deals. We need that guarantee.”
It comes as an Irish Examiner/ICMSA opinion poll of farmers and farm families showed nine out of 10 farmers concerned about the impact of the UK’s departure without a deal.
Mr Healy also called on protesting beef farmers to “read the details” of the agreement reached after marathon talks last weekend.
“I believe at this point in time it is the best deal. It is time to read the document and allow processing to take place. There will always be the right to go back to negotiate.
“Let’s get back to normality.”
A strong message had been given to processors during the talks, he said, that there can be no drop in the base price as that could eat up bonuses. He called for more clarity from the Minister for a road map for the future of Irish agriculture.
All of this is happening “in the shadow of Brexit” he warned. No country has as much to lose as Ireland and no sector has as much at stake as farming, he added.
- Additional reporting Digital Desk