IFA to continue Department sit-in despite EU cattle deal

 

The Irish Farmers' Association intends to continue its occupation of the lobby of the Department of Agriculture headquarters in Dublin today, despite a deal negotiated in Brussels which should help ease some of the difficulties in the cattle trade.

Intense negotiations at EU level in Brussels yesterday yielded a package which will allow more, and heavier, cattle into an emergency EU beef intervention scheme which will operate exclusively in Ireland until the end of the year.

However, last night, following a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh, the IFA said it was linking the cessation of the sit-in to how much the factories would pass on to the farmers as a result of the deal. While the sit-in has been peaceful, there were angry scenes yesterday when the Irish Meat Association delegation left the building following their meeting with the Minister.

More than 100 farmers who had come to Dublin to support the sit-in by picketing the outside of the building jeered the factory representatives. The IFA president, Mr Tom Parlon, who has led the occupation which began at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, said the meat factories were now central to the resolution of the beef campaign.

He said that under the terms of the deal, factories should be able to pay farmers 80p per lb for their animals and they should be capable of taking 30,000 tonnes (90,000 cattle) into the system.

But last night a spokesman for the Irish Meat Association, which represents the meat plants, said the changes in the intervention system fell short of what beef factories had sought. He refused to comment on what impact the changes might have on cattle prices when implemented.

The factories, the IFA and the Department will hold a meeting today to discuss the future of the trade, which is experiencing major difficulties because of the loss of the Russian trade and falling demand in Europe.

Mr Walsh had summoned the Irish Meat Association to the Department yesterday to express his dissatisfaction at the prices being paid to farmers for their beef, despite a recent increase in export refunds (subsidies for exports outside the EU) which could have yielded an extra 5p per lb.

Following the meeting, Mr Walsh said he had sought a firm undertaking from them that whatever extension of improvements in the support arrangements were granted by the EU, these should be fully utilised by the factories in a way which directly benefited the producer.