Blockades are continuing at meat processing plants around the country as just four of the 20 pickets have been lifted.
Hopes had been raised on Wednesday that a resolution to the standoff might be in sight after the first blockade was lifted from the Dawn Meats plant in Slane, Co Meath. This was followed by the lifting of pickets at ABP in Cahir, Co Tipperary.
Yesterday, pickets at ABP Nenagh in Co Tipperary, and ABP in Rathkeale, Co Limerick were also called off.
However, blockades remain at 15 other plants as ABP announced 100 temporary lay-offs at its plant in Cahir in addition to the 355 employees temporarily laid off earlier this week.
At the ABP plant in Bandon, Co Cork, there were around six protesters at the gates of the facility yesterday morning but numbers the previous night were estimated at as many as 50. There appeared to be little appetite for any standing down of the picket at the factory.
Dawn Meats says upwards of €2.25m worth of finished beef is being “illegally refused exit” from its plant in Charleville, Co Cork, by 10 farmers engaged in a picket.
The facility, which is now in shutdown mode, employs more than 300 staff and exports beef to more than 20 countries. It hasn’t slaughtered in over two weeks.
“Continuing illegal blockades are an act of national sabotage and an affront to the very many genuine farmers seeking to make ends meet at a critically challenging time for the Irish beef industry. International beef customers are completely frustrated that for a second week in a row they will receive no Irish product and have had to source South American beef to meet their requirements,” said a spokesperson.
The agreement reached last weekend between meat processors and a number of farm organisations contained the setting-up of a task force to address difficulties in the beef industry.
The task force is to be chaired independently, with one representative from each farm organisation to attend discussions.
Beef Plan Movement spokesman Dermot O’Brien has called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to immediately organise the convening of the Beef Task Force and for “whistle-blowers from within the industry to come forward”.
“Farmers deserve the truth be told. BPM highlighted the importance of President Higgins’ intervention in the beef crisis this week, where he identified the fact the farm families are finding it difficult to remain sustainable,” he said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that 90% of Irish beef farmers’ income could be lost due to the ongoing meat factories stand-off, claiming that foreign markets will switch to other producers if the blockades continue. He repeated his view that all farmers should agree to the deal signed off on by most farmers’ groups last weekend, for the sake of the wider industry and said the Government “appreciates the really hard time the beef farmers have had over the past year”.
“I’m also really worried about the jobs that have been lost in those meat plants, and also about the future of the Irish beef industry, because if those plants don’t reopen we know what’s going to happen. Most of our beef is exported, 90% of it is, and those people around the world will just buy beef from somewhere else. We may never regain that market share. So there’s a real risk the ongoing blockades are making a bad situation worse,” he said.