Beef farmers prepared to protest for ‘as long as it takes’

Members of the IFA begin two-day protest at 14 of the State’s major beef processors

Henry Burns, national livestock chair IFA, and Eddie Downey (centre-right), president IFA, at the 48-hour protest outside Kepak in Clonee. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Henry Burns, national livestock chair IFA, and Eddie Downey (centre-right), president IFA, at the 48-hour protest outside Kepak in Clonee. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Beef farmers who began a two-day protest outside the headquarters of Kepak in Co Meath, say they “have nothing to lose” in their dispute with processors over prices.

Members of the IFA who yesterday gathered at Kepak’s headquarters are part of a mass protest outside 14 of the State’s main beef processors said they were determined to protest for “as long as it takes” and would escalate their action if the processors did not concede on price.

The 14 plants include those owned by Kepak, Dawn and ABP.

Placards proclaiming prices paid for cattle were €350 per head less in the Republic than that paid by processors in the UK, were carried by farmers at Clonee who said processors here were “selling cheap” to processors in the UK.

The result, they said was that prime Irish beef was going into burgers and mince in the UK and not being sold as a quality product which could command a better price.

IFA President Eddie Downey who addressed the Clonee protest also accused the processors of not passing on recent increases in the price of Irish beef in the UK.

Mr Downey warned the IFA’s executive council and national livestock committee had sanctioned further action unless the 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 30 cent per kilogram in recent months, they have continued to deny farmers a return that reflects improved market conditions”.

Mr Downey said the resolve of farmers heading into the 48-hour protest was very strong. “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 €4.00 per kilogram.”

Teagasc has confirmed that livestock farm incomes are down 13percent to 22 percent last year, ranging from €9,469 to €15,595, he said.

One of the protesters carried a placard refuting suggestions from the meat industry that prices had risen significantly in recent years. Eamon Corley of Bective, Co Meath displayed a receipt he had for 1989 which showed payments of IR£2.557 per kilo which equated to €3.25 per kilo.

“Today the price is €3.25 per kilo which is a 45 cent rise per kilo over 25 years,” he said.

Michael McNally of Summerhill Co Meath said he was part of a movement called “Grassroots” within the IFA, which was formulating a 10-year plan to “take back control of the industry from the processors and the supermarkets”.

“We are the producers and we are preparing that plan” he said.

John Curran from Kells Co Meath said some farmers were given a price two years ago when they bought in stock. But he said when they went to sell “they were told they were “overweight, over age or the wrong breed”.

Hugh Doyle from Summerhill said supermarkets were paying 15 to 20 per cent leff to farmers while charging shoppers an additional 8 percent. “Our backs are to the wall, we have nothing to lose from this protest” he said.

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