Beef Plan Movement will ‘not endorse’ outcome of talks
MII says a small number of pickets have resumed at meat processing plants
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed attended talks last week. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times
The grassroots farmers’ group, Beef Plan Movement, which has led pickets outside meat processing plants, has said it will not endorse the outcome of talks last week aimed at improving conditions for beef farmers.
The talks concluded last week, and had included Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the representative body for processors, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, and representatives from Beef Plan Movement.
Protests over beef prices in recent weeks closed some 20 meat processing plants across the State before the talks, which were hosted by the Department of Agriculture.
The talks resulted in agreement on several issues, but there had been a precondition that pricing would not be on the table for negotiation.
Last week, IFA president Joe Healy and the MII welcomed the outcome of the discussions.
There was agreement on the need for a fully funded Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) and to protect its share of the EU Budget, and ensure that the current level of direct payments to Irish beef farmers is protected.
Mr Healy said the IFA had secured a strong position for additional funding for targeted direct support for suckler cows.
It was also agreed Bord Bia would develop a beef market price index model and that an independent grocery regulator is required.
The Department of Agriculture agreed to introduce an appeal system for carcass classification in meat plants where there is manual grading only. IFA is seeking an appeals system in all meat plants. Farmers will also have access to carcass images on request.
Measures aimed at increasing transparency in the supply chain were also agreed, including an independent study on price composition, additional price reporting and consensus on the need for an independent groceries regulator.
Meanwhile, MII said pickets had resumed at a small number of beef processing plants since Sunday afternoon.
In a statement, the organisation said “significant efforts have been made in talks between processors and farm organisations over the last fortnight; progress was made on a number of issues raised by farm representatives as well as agreement for ongoing work on several other areas which, if allowed to conclude, should be positive for beef producers”.
The group said while beef prices were a pressing issue facing farmers, prices were “determined by conditions in the market at present, which are acknowledged by all as being extremely challenging”.
“Shooting the messenger by targeting processors will not solve the problems that the sector faces at present,” the statement said.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland show, David Whelehan of Beef Plan Movement said all official protests had been stood down ahead of the previous talks. “These picket lines are not organised by anyone from the Beef Plan Movement, there is nothing we can say to them,” he said.
In a statement on Monday, a spokesman for Mr Creed said the Minister “continues to be available to engage with all farm organisations. It should be noted however that the protests now commenced at meat processing plants is not endorsed by any farm organisation.”