Beef processor accuses IFA of blockade ‘stunt’ as it announces price increase

Association denies protests a response to it being outflanked by new farmer lobbies

Farmers outside the Lidl distribution centre in Charleville, Co Cork on Friday. Photograph: IFA

Farmers outside the Lidl distribution centre in Charleville, Co Cork on Friday. Photograph: IFA

 

One of the State’s largest beef processors has announced it would increase the base price it pays for catttle from next week as farmers’ blockaded a Co Cork retail distribution centre.

The Larry Goodman owned ABP said, however, that it was “at a complete loss” as to why the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) had “pursued a course of irresponsible, disruptive and illegal action at retail distribution centres” in the last two days.

IFA president Joe Healy joined some 30 farmers to blockade a Lidl retail distribution centre near Charleville, which followed a similar action at an Aldi centre in Co Kildare on Thursday.

The protesters prevented trucks getting into premises in an attempt to highlight their concerns about the prices being paid to Irish beef farmers. A queue of articulated lorries had to pull-up and wait at side of the main Cork-Limerick N20 road during Friday’s action.

Farmers used a tractor and a couple of large bales of hay to block the entrance in Charleville but there was little of the confrontation seen a day earlier in Naas.

The move follows recent tractor protests in Dublin city by “independent” farmers as well as factory blockades during the summer, which the IFA was criticised for a lack of participation in.

‘Competition’

ABP claimed the timing of this weeks “stunt” was motivated by “competition for membership between traditional and new farm organisations”.

It also said the IFA was aware that a cattle price increase had been flagged at Tuesday’s meeting of the beef taskforce, an industry and farming body established to oversee reforms agreed following the outbreak of farmer protests at processing plants.

Mr Healy rejected ABP’s assertion that the action was a response to being outflanked by other lobby groups.

“We base what we do on fact and information and our information during the summer was that the markets that we were putting our beef into in the UK and Europe weren’t getting any more per kilo of beef than we were getting,” he said.

“We, as a reputable organisation representing 72,000 farmers, could not go to factory gates and expect a price increase and that’s why we went after the €100 million subsidy package and we got it.

“But now the markets have moved on and.... according to the Bord Bia Price Index, a gap has widened up between what Irish farmers are getting and farmers are getting elsewhere.

European trade commissioner Phil Hogan on Friday said that while beef farmers were going through a very difficult time “dialogue is better than confrontation.

‘Torrid’

Among of the protesters in Charleville was Pat O’Driscoll. He travelled to join the blockade from Valentia Island in Co Kerry because he felt there “has to be movement on beef prices if beef farming is to survive”.

“The last year has been torrid. I’ve been selling forward stores and that market has been affected as well because the guys who are finishing cattle can’t get a price in the factory or can’t even get cattle killed,” he said

Denis Duggan, from Doon in Co Limerick, said that if it was not for his off-farm job, he would not survive on the 30-40 suckler cows and finishing animals he produces on his 100 acre holding of marginal land.

“At the moment, I’m taking a loss on every animal. If it wasn’t for the BEAM (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) €100 million compensation package, it would be far worse. It’s not huge money, €40 per suckler cow, but it does help cover the cost.”

The truck drivers were clearly not happy at the Lidl centre being blockaded and in most cases turned around to bring their loads back to suppliers.

“There’s not much I can do,” said one. “I just want to get the job done and finish up for the day and go home to my family but I can’t do that now.”

A Lidl spokeswoman said the company appreciated the importance of communication with farming representatives and it had last week had constructive discussions with the IFA and Beef Plan Movement.

“We are supportive of the work of the beef taskforce and hope they can make positive progress rapidly in the interest of all parties.”