Government urged to intervene in escalating beef crisis

With some protesters continuing to defy court injunctions some processors sought to obtain attachment and committal orders that could lead to farmers involved in protest action being arrested.

Government urged to intervene in escalating beef crisis

The government has been urged to directly intervene in the beef price crisis amid escalating court actions and wildcat protests outside processing facilities around the country.

With some protesters continuing to defy court injunctions some processors sought to obtain attachment and committal orders that could lead to farmers involved in protest action being arrested.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to kickstart fresh negotiations and for retailers to be drafted in to explain their position.

The key issue for farmers is price per kg but the criteria for bonuses, such as cattle having to be on a farm for the last 70 days of its life and cattle over 30 months old not being eligible, have also come in for criticism.

Deputy Fitzmaurice told RTE's Today with Miriam O'Callaghan that retailers had "ducked and dived" committees in the past and criticised the "unacceptable" prices being given to farmers at a time when new export contracts for Irish produce were being secured.

On the same programme, Beef Plan Movement reiterated that any member of that organisation currently protesting outside factories would be expelled while also stressing that retailers needed to be asked directly why they were setting criteria for meat produce such as the 30 month rule.

Both said the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee should also ask retailers to appear before it to explain their role in the pricing process. A spokesperson for the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee confirmed that a request had been made for the Committee to convene to discuss the beef price crisis and to request the attendance of retailers, adding that this was now being considered.

IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman Angus Woods also said beef talks must be reconvened immediately by Minister Creed and that new funding to support incomes in the livestock sector must be on the table.

"The market is entering the critical autumn period," he said.

Farmers that want to move their stock have to be able to do so as their stock become ready for market.

He referred to a visiting Chinese delegation, who are due to visit 16 plants over the next two weeks, and added: “Livestock farmers are entitled to a decent income, transparency in their markets and a fair return for hard work in rearing and supplying the best quality cattle in the world.”

Speaking outside the ABP facility in Bandon in Co Cork, Independent TD Michael Collins said direct Ministerial intervention is required to get all parties back around the negotiating table - this time with the issue of price on the agenda.

Deputy Collins described legal interventions by the meat processors as "heavyhanded", while some of those protesting admitted that the injunctions may have had an impact on the numbers protesting.

However, other protests in Cahir in Co Tipperary and in Grannagh in Co Kilkenny saw more direct action being employed by protesters and apprentice efforts to block entry to factories.

ABP and Dawn Meats had already secured injunctions but were back before the High Court seeking enforcement orders, while Slaney Meats secured its own injunction, with Kepak in the process of following suit.

On RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Meat Industry Ireland spokesman Cormac Healy said he hoped it would not be necessary for gardaí to forcibly remove protestors outside meat plants.

Mr Healy said that Meat Industry Ireland is willing to engage in talks, but only when blockades are lifted from the gates of meat processing plants. “We will not engage in talks while protests are in place.”

IFA President Joe Healy said that talks are needed and warned that bringing beef farmers before the courts "will solve nothing".

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