Factories cannot afford to ignore the thousands of farmers who attended beef price protests which ended yesterday, the Irish Farmers Association has warned.
The IFA said an estimated 15,000 farmers took part in the demonstrations outside 30 locations, with the 24-hour action concluding yesterday in the north Cork town of Charleville.
The organisation said farmers were furious over the €350 per head cattle price gap it says has opened up with the main export market in Britain.
Mr Downey told farmers in Charleville: “Farmers cannot continue to sell cattle at a loss. Teagasc figures show that on our most efficient farms, producers need a base price of at least €4/kg.
“Our main markets have recovered strongly and farmers are not prepared to tolerate lossmaking prices any longer. Meat Industry Ireland must address the fundamental issue, which is their refusal to pass back to Irish farmers strong UK market price increases of over 30c/kg (€100 per head) in the last number of weeks.”
He said Irish meat factories needed to address the situation “without delay”, claiming beef prices at the factories here need to increase to fairly reflect the very strong increase in cattle prices in Britain, where Irish beef sales are up 20% this year.
IFA national livestock chairman Henry Burns criticised Minister of Agriculture Simon Coveney, claiming he had failed to tackle the factories on beef prices.
He said farmers felt “let down” over the minister’s failure to insist that the factories implement the quality payment system or price grid in a fair way in line with their agreement with suppliers.
Meat Industry Ireland had condemned the protests before they began, stressing that they would not have any impact on factory prices.
In a statement issued before the weekend it said: “While Irish cattle prices have been weaker this year (down 10% to 12% from the record high levels of 2013), prices across the entire EU have fallen. This is a direct result of a significant drop in EU beef consumption, which has fallen by 700,000 tonnes since 2010.”
However, it said cattle prices were improving and that export levels this year are set to match last year’s record levels.
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