Angry farmers out in force in beef price protest

Farmers, led by IFA president Eddie Downey, protesting at the Kepak plant in Clonee, Co Meath. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

Angry beef farmers have begun a 48-hour protest outside every meat factory in Ireland in a row over low prices for cattle.

The IFA-led protest, which began yesterday afternoon, is the second time in two weeks farmers have come out in force.

The protests were planned after nine hours of intensive negotiations between farmers and the meat processors ended without a resolution on Friday night.

Speaking in Clonee in Meath at the beginning of the 48-hour protest, Irish Farmers Association president Eddie Downey said the refusal of the meat factory bosses to pass back market returns to beef producers was the reason farmers had taken action.

“IFA’s executive council and national livestock committee sanctioned further action unless the massive €350 gap between the UK beef prices and ourselves was addressed. The beef processors have to take responsibility for this situation. Even with incontrovertible market evidence that shows how the UK price has moved on by 30c/kg in recent months, they have continued to deny farmers a return that reflects improved market conditions,” he said.

However, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) chairman Ciarán Fitzgerald said the protests were “irresponsible” and would damage Ireland’s reputation.

“Given that significant progress had been made, further protest action, which will leave almost 10,000 people out of jobs on Monday and Tuesday, is unacceptable. This 48- hour action will again only disrupt business and damage Ireland’s reputation with customers,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald also claimed the IFA were using “inappropriate and misleading” price comparators when talking about the British market.

They have taken to the national media calling for significant price increases while ignoring the market realities of reduced consumption and falling cattle prices across Europe. They have also ignored the fact that the Irish cattle price, which has strengthened significantly in recent weeks, continues to be on par, or higher than, the EU average price, which is a very strong return given that Ireland exports 90% of our beef to European markets,” he said.

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