Talks aimed at resolving the dispute between farmers and meat processors were making progress on a number of issues last night, though significant areas of contention remained unresolved.
Some headway was made at the talks, which began at 4.30pm, on farmers’ demands that factories pay a basic Quality Assured bonus on all cattle from a Bord Bia-approved quality assured farm. There was also some progress on the issue of the 30-month age limit and on weight restrictions.
After four hours of negotiation, a document was presented to the sides by the Department of Agriculture. It is understood that, after the document was considered by the sides, a number of concerns were raised that were the subject of further negotiation and by 10pm last night those talks were still ongoing.
However, the area of the price paid by factories to farmers for their produce remained completely unresolved.
Earlier in the day, there was uproar from farming representatives when the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission wrote to them warning that the talks must not “move into competition-sensitive areas, for example in relation to fixing prices or anti-competitive collective action”.
In the letters, the commission warned that as farmers compete with each other in the supply of cattle to meat processors and must decide individually on the price at which they will supply a given processor, representatives “must not enter into a collective agreement on behalf of members regarding the prices at which those members are willing to supply meat processors”.
IFA president Eddie Downey said beef farmers have been very unfairly treated by the processors this year and they have a legitimate right to protest about the “unjustified” €350 price gap with their main market in Britain.
John Comer, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, said his association considered the intervention was “brass-necked and almost without comparison in terms of insensitivity and display of partisanship”.
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