A multimillion-euro meat deal with China is under threat because of farmer protests outside processing plants, it has been claimed. The owners of up to a dozen meat plants have been granted temporary High Court injunctions restraining protesters from blockading their factories.
Lyndon MacCann SC, counsel for Dawn Meats, and Brian O’Moore SC, for Anglo Beef Processors (ABP), told Mr Justice Senan Allen that the actions of threatening and abusive protestors could jeopardise a multimillion-euro meat deal with China.
They told the court that a Chinese delegation was due to visit the meat factories in the next few days to carry out inspections of processing and hygiene with a view to increasing exports to the Chinese market.
They said the potential deal had taken years to set up and, if cancelled because of the actions of protesters, could take more years of negotiation to put it back in place if at all.
Judge Allen was told that a peace agreement hammered out with the help of the Minister of Agriculture Michael Creed had broken down at two of the main meat plants of both Dawn and ABP and disruption was expected to spread to other plants if not restrained by the court.
He heard that both companies were seeking temporary injunctions restraining a number of named protesters, and anyone with knowledge of the making of the court’s orders, from continuing their blockade.
Mr MacCann said Dawn Meats was a sheep and cattle processing business processing 300,000 tonnes of meat annually, operating sites in Ireland and the UK and employing over 7,000 people in 12 countries and exports to more than 50 countries.
Mr MacCann said Dawn had no objection to anyone exercising their right to protest peacefully and in accordance with the law but Dawn was suffering a daily loss of turnover of €1.5m. Many farmers willing to supply the plants were being prevented from doing so.
Mr O’Moore said a worrying aspect of the blockades was the alleged intimidation of suppliers, staff, and even Government inspectors.
“Some hauliers have been advised not to return and one was told his company would be burned out if he did return,” said Mr O’Moore.
The court’s orders in the case of Dawn apply to premises at Grannagh, Co Waterford; Meadow Meats, Rathdowney, Co Laois; Hazel Hill, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo; Ardnageehy, Charleville, Co Cork, and Greenhills, Beauparc, Slane, Co Meath.
The ABP plants covered by the court’s restraints are APB premises at Bandon, Co Cork; Nenagh, Co Tipperary; Rathkeale, Co Limerick; Cahir, Co Tipperary; Clones, Co Monaghan and at Ferrybank, Co Waterford.
The proceedings were adjourned until Friday.