The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said the gap between UK and Irish beef prices has not been sufficiently addressed and the refusal of meat factory bosses to pass back market returns to beef producers prompted farmers to protest. Factories involved included those owned by Larry Goodman’s ABP, Kepak, and Dawn Meats.
IFA president Eddie Downey said: “IFA’s executive council and National Livestock Committee sanctioned further action unless the massive €350 gap between the UK beef prices and ourselves was addressed. The beef processors have to take responsibility for this situation. Even with incontrovertible market evidence that shows how the UK price has moved on by 30c/kg in recent months, they have continued to deny farmers a return that reflects improved market conditions.
“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.”
The IFA engaged in intensive discussions with meat factories, under the chairmanship of former Department of Agriculture general secretary Michael Dowling, but Downey said not enough progress was made.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the country’s processors, said that the UK price comparison was not a valid argument since quality standards vary. The action follows a 24 hour protest two weeks ago which reportedly cost the industry €10m of lost output.
Following the protest, Downey said the steel and resolve of farmers across the country was strong and they were determined that the factories must respond on prices to reflect the increase in returns from the main export market in the UK.
Minister for agriculture Simon Coveney said he was confident a solution to the crisis could be found, despite a failure to stop the protests going ahead, and Beef Forum negotiations will continue today (12 November).