'Completely unjustified stunt': Meat Industry Ireland slams farmers' protest

'Completely unjustified stunt': Meat Industry Ireland slams farmers' protest

Today’s protest by farmers outside a Lidl distribution centre has been slammed as “a completely unjustified stunt”.

But farmers say not only is it justified but if they don’t get the proper price for their beef, the domestic Irish beef industry will collapse.

Since 7am, some 50 or so farmers from Wicklow, Cork, Limerick and Kerry have blocked the entrance to the Lidl centre in Ballyhea, just outside Charleville, north Co Cork.

Few drivers of trucks that wanted to get in have done anything more than call their bosses, and then turn round, so far.

There has been none of the brief hostility that happened between a driver and farmers at a similar protest earlier in the week outside an Aldi in Co Kildare.

But at around 11.30am, gardaí turned up and moved on the driver of one trucking firm that was parked across the road from the entrance.

Officers then drove into the Lidl plant and parked up at the entrance, inside the blockade, which consists of a John Deere tractor, two large bales of straw and a cattle trailer.

The Irish Farmers' Association says protests will continue until there's a significant increase in the price of beef.

IFA President Jim Healy told the Irish Examiner: “We are doing this get a price increase back to the Irish beef farmer.

“They have to get it because they cannot continue otherwise.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by chair person of Charleville IFA, Gay Cagney.

A beef farmer, she has seen her profits vanish in the past two years, from €3.90 in November 2017 per kg, to €3.20.

“I have about 130 cattle I rear from calves for between 16-24 months before I sell them,” she said.

“Although I will pay around €150 for each one of them, I will easily have paid around €1,000 in feed and veterinary bills.

“I am lucky if I break even now but I no longer make any profit and this situation can’t go on.

This is a government problem, but it will soon become a problem for the people in the shops.

“If we can’t make a living out of it, we’ll just follow many of our colleagues and get out.

“And what people are witnessing now is potentially the beginning of the end of the Irish beef industry.”

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said: “Today’s IFA blockading of businesses is an irresponsible and completely unjustified stunt. Disrupting normal business operations and harming the livelihoods of associated service providers does nothing to help the market situation.

“Every effort is being made to address the many actions in the Irish Beef Sector Agreement. Yet, the IFA has chosen to undermine this process by engaging in this illegal blockading activity.

“This and further threatened blockading activity are an expression of internal farm organisation politics playing out in the form of disruption of businesses.”

UPDATE 1.30pm: The ABP Food Group has said it is at "a complete loss" as to why the protests went ahead this week, and condemned them as a "stunt".

In a statement, the company said: "The Beef Task Force met on Tuesday and (outgoing IFA President) Joe Healy and the IFA were fully aware that market indications pointed towards a cattle price increase in Ireland. This was reported extensively.

"Joe Healy is also aware that cattle prices are quoted on a Friday and the timing of this stunt was motivated by competition for membership between traditional and new farm organisations.

"The price paid by ABP for cattle will always be determined by the prevailing market conditions and those conditions have recently improved. ABP can confirm, as was indicated on Tuesday at the Beef Task Force, that it will increase the base price of cattle for deliveries from next Monday. The actions, this week, of Joe Healy, the outgoing IFA president, were needless and irresponsible.”

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