No prospect of return to talks despite deepening beef crisis
Processors say 6,000 people temporarily laid off due to blockades
The dispute, which has been ongoing for months, has brought the Irish beef industry to a standstill. File photograph: Getty
There is no prospect of a return to talks in the beef crisis, with farming groups expected to focus efforts on convincing those blockading meat factories to lift their pickets and accept the deal on the table.
The extended dispute has brought the Irish beef industry to a standstill. The main issue is dissatisfaction felt by farmers at the price they are getting for animals from meat processors.
An agreement was believed to have been reached following talks last weekend. However, the Independent Farmers of Ireland, which has claimed to be behind the blockades, said farmers at factory gates would not accept the deal.
About 80 members of the group met at the Cahir House Hotel on Monday night to consider the deal. The attendance represented protesters at factories at Cahir, Nenagh, Charleville, Bandon, Watergrasshill and Ennis.
The deal was outlined by one of the group’s negotiators. But farmers voted to continue the protests as the agreement did not address their key demand for an increase in the base beef prices factories are paying farmers.
Meat Industry Ireland, which represents processors, has said 6,000 people have been temporarily laid off due to the blockades.
ABP Food Group, which on Tuesday laid off 355 workers at its Cahir plant in Co Tipperary, said production there had ceased. “The protesters have stopped any product going into or leaving the site,” it said.
“Production has ceased. Furthermore, these illegal blockades are impacting seriously on the thousands of beef farmers who supply cattle to the site . . . ABP has expressed its dismay that after an agreement was reached illegal blockades remain in place at Cahir and at other processing sites across the country.”
Trade union Siptu has called on the Government to provide financial support for the workers who have been laid off.
Irish Farmers’ Association president Joe Healy has called on farmers to end the blockades. “There will always be the right to go back to negotiate,” he said. “Let’s get back to normality.”
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the price for beef was depressed, but that Ireland was at the European average. “We depend on our reputation,” he said. “For every day that this goes on it will have a long term impact . . . We’re at tipping point. I do acknowledge that it is a difficult time for farmers. The global beef market is extremely competitive.”
President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association Pat McCormack said the organisation had worked with beef farmers involved in protests to secure a better deal for them as his organisation has a “major stake in the game”.