Farmers warn protests will continue until they achieve parity on beef prices

Farmers warn protests will continue until they achieve parity on beef prices
Picture: Collins

Farmers will continue blockading food distribution centres despite a rise in beef prices, they have warned.

Protesters say their actions, which have effectively shut down three distribution centres over three days so far, should continue because price rises don’t go far enough.

And the Irish Farmers Association says they will carry on until they get price parity with British and EU markets. Their farmers are being paid between 0.20c and 0.50c more per kg for beef than farmers are paid here.

The Tesco central distribution centre in Donabate, Co Dublin, became the latest target for the farmers’ protest yesterday. The action, which started at 7am, is part of an ongoing farmer campaign for increased beef prices.

As with two similar protests last week, it lasted 12 hours. The second protest, outside Lidl’s massive distribution centre in Ballyhea, near Charleville, north Cork, last Friday, led to Larry Goodman’s ABP group agreeing to raise prices. At the time, the base price at factories was €3.45 for steers and €3.50 for heifers while this week’s price has increased to €3.55 for steers and €3.55 for heifers.

But IFA president, Joe Healy, said yesterday these rises are still “over 0.50c off” the British price as their market continues to strengthen: “It is clear, based on market increases, that the factories including ABP could have increased cattle prices some weeks ago, but they did not. Instead, they pocketed the increases for themselves and refused to pass it back to farmers.”

And he said that “unsustainable discounting” of beef products at stores like Tesco “puts downward pressure on beef prices”. He also said it is “an insult to farmers and the work they do”. And he added: “The IFA will continue with our action until we have a substantial price increase.”

Tesco had beef online yesterday at prices per kg ranging from €5.99 for their Finest Certified Irish Angus beef round roast to €17.74 for ribeye Angus steak.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “At Tesco, we have always maintained a good working relationship with the IFA, so (yesterday’s) action at our distribution centre is regrettable. Tesco is one of the biggest supporters and purchasers of Irish food and drink globally. We are proud that all our own-label fresh beef, pork, lamb and chicken is 100% Irish and Bord Bia approved.

"All Tesco own-label fresh beef is sourced through processors, who agree prices directly with farmers. The price customers pay for beef products in our stores is not related to the price farmers receive from the processors. As a business we pay for any price promotions we run. Tesco supports the Beef Taskforce and agrees it is the correct mechanism for resolving challenges in the beef sector.”

The Beef Task Force, which first met at the start of Dec, was set up after the beef blockades ended in Sept. It is designed to be a forum for all interested parties to air concerns so solutions to these concerns can be met through some form of consensus.

At the meeting earlier this month, there was a call for an immediate rise in the base price paid for beef.

Emerging from the meeting all of the leading farming representative organisations said there is an urgent need for the base price paid for cattle to increase. This was made by Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association, and it was backed by the IFA, the Beef Plan Movement and the Irish Creamery milk Suppliers Association.

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