Beef producer has 'indefinitely postponed' a 'major €6.5m investment' as result of protests

Beef producer has 'indefinitely postponed' a 'major €6.5m investment' as result of protests
A truck is prevented from entering a Kepak site in Cork earlier this month. Picture: Larry Cummins

A large beef producer has revealed it has “indefinitely postponed” a multi-million euro investment in one of its beef plants as a direct result of the ongoing protests over cattle prices.

Kepak’s announcement tonight came as protesters were urged to call off the demonstrations at factory gates that has hit beef production, with claims the ongoing pickets are causing ‘self harm’ to the industry.

In a strongly-worded statement, the company accused protesters of creating ‘chaos’ in the beef industry and that as a result it “regrets to confirm that it has indefinitely postponed a planned and publicly announced, major €6.5m investment at its Clare site in Drumquin as a direct result of the ongoing illegal blockades”.

It said the Clare plant has been the most severely affected by ongoing blockades, with all processing “suspended there effectively since 2 August”.

“Kepak is immensely grateful for the support of its loyal staff, customers and farmer suppliers who have been harshly impacted by the illegal and intimidating behaviour of protesters many of whom are not known as suppliers to Kepak Clare,” the statement read.

“Kepak have now laid off 1,400 people including all staff at Kepak Clare. Kepak is endeavouring to provide our colleagues with every support and assistance during this difficult time.

It is now evident that self-appointed protesters are creating chaos in the Irish beef industry with little regard for its long-term future.

Kepak claimed the weak market prices for beef was an EU-wide challenge that “will not be resolved by illegal blockades of Irish meat processors”.

“The short-term hardship and financial stress imposed on staff and farmers, exacerbated by an overhang of factory ready stock, arising from the illegal blockades, is extreme and indiscriminate,” Kepak said.

“Longer term, more hardship is envisaged as some hard-won EU customers have already switched to sourcing their supply of beef from other countries. Loyal customers are now beginning to question the reliability of the Irish beef sector as a dependable supplier.

“On two occasions, negotiations and agreements have been spurned in favour of intimidation and lawlessness by a cohort with little regard for the havoc being caused. It is critical that blockades are lifted to allow farmers and the industry to resume normal activity before it suffers irreparable damage and losses,” the company said.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney - a former Agriculture Minister - today added his voice to the chorus of pleas to farmers to allow production to resume at plants, and warned that the crisis is now at ‘tipping point’.

The Tánaiste’s intervention echoed earlier remarks from Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who again asked protesters to consider the deal struck between farming organisations and producers over the weekend.

“I appeal to farmers, to the silent majority. We are at a critical point. We are now witnessing real self harm to our beef industry,” Mr Creed told RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland.

Speaking on the same station, SIPTU agri-sector representative Terry Bryan said the industry was looking at ‘self-destruction’ if the blockades continue.

Mr Bryan said thousands have been laid off from factories, and warned some non-EU workers in the meat processing plants who have been laid off this week will not be eligible for social welfare payments.

He said the union is calling on the Government to establish an additional support fund for workers which should be contributed to by employers, he told the Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

“There needs to be calm heads, there needs to be cool heads. Examine the proposals in detail.

“Our members are victims in this, they feel no one is thinking of them,” he said.

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