Creed urged to open ‘meaningful dialogue’ on beef price dispute

Farming body warns of beef shortages unless breakthrough made soon

A protester’s sign at the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh, Co Waterford. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A protester’s sign at the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh, Co Waterford. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Fine Gael is coming under “intense” pressure from members of the party to resolve the beef price dispute amid claims that beef products will “disappear off the shelves” within days.

Several sources have voiced concerns that the party will lose vital rural seats in the next election in areas such as Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Galway because of the deepening impasse.

One strategist warned that the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed is under “exceptional pressure” from both inside and outside the party to resolve the issue.

“His own political career could be very much on the line here,” the strategist warned.

Party insiders are also fearful that pickets outside factories are now turning “nasty” and are privately urging the Minister to open a “meaningful dialogue” with the relevant stakeholders.

Recent polls have shown that support for Fine Gael has fallen sharply amongst farmers.

The Beef Plan Movement has said that farmers receive just 20 per cent of what a customer pays for beef, with the retailer and processor receiving larger shares.

Shortages

It comes as the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has warned of beef shortages in the coming days.

ICSA president Edmond Phelan said the “big supermarkets will have no beef before the week is out unless there is a major breakthrough on this protest”.

“ICSA is calling on retailers to admit that current beef prices paid to producers are unsustainably low.” The group also said retailers must be involved in planned talks.

“The row is about sustainable prices and we have to see if retailers really care about their suppliers. It is about time we had some fair trade for beef farmers.”

“Meanwhile, ICSA strongly urges consumers to stock up on their favourite beef cuts because beef won’t be available for much longer.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for agriculture Charlie McConalogue said Mr Creed must immediately convene talks.

“The Minister must now immediately reconvene talks between meat processors and these representatives along with representatives of the Beef Plan Movement and all farming organisations.

“It is also essential that talks on this occasion include retailer representatives.

“An outcome of reconvened talks should also include a commitment from the Minister to seek additional market disturbance funding from the European Commission to address losses experienced by farmers in recent month,” he said.

“Any continuation of the current situation will not improve the position of anyone involved in the beef sector,” he added.

It comes after reported scuffles at a number of plants where pickets were taking place on Monday. One man was arrested at Liffey Meats plant in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, while another was injured.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said the incident was “an extremely serious development”.

“It is a turning point in this dispute, a turning point which can expedite a resolution or which can see a further escalation of the situation.”