Farmers’ protests: Government cannot increase beef price - Varadkar

A number of roads in Dublin are blocked for a second day as part of a protest over prices

There has been a stand-off between gardai and farmer protestors at Merrion Square as gardaí attempted to prevent the tractors from exiting the area and driving towards the Dáil. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

The Government cannot increase the price of beef, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this morning, pointing out that Irish beef prices were in line with the European average and higher than outside Europe.

As farmer protests entered their second day in Dublin, where they have used tractors to block a number of roads leading to severe traffic disruption, Mr Varadkar said the Government needed to be honest with farmers that it had no power to increase beef prices.

Five delegates handed a letter to Mr Creed in the lobby of the Department of Agriculture this morning outlining a number of issues.

Among the demands being made by the farmers is that the beef taskforce be reconvened and for injunctions against two farmers to be lifted. Some have said they will not leave until this demands are met.

Farmers and tractors block St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Collins
Farmers and tractors block St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Collins

It is understood Mr Creed did not make any committments.

Setting up a beef taskforce was agreed at talks on the future of the beef industry, which brought an end to more than two months of farmer blockades at meat processors. However, it was suspended at the first meeting due to a disagreement.

Mr Varadkar said the Government understood the pressures on beef farmers, who have had a “very bad time in the last couple of months and years”.

“But we also need to be honest with beef farmers as well - there are some things the Government controls and there are some things the Government doesn’t, and the beef price isn’t one of them.

“Just like the price of oil or the price of flour or the price of milk, it’s a price that is set by the market,” he said.

Farmers and tractors during a protest by farmers over farm produce prices at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Collins
Farmers and tractors during a protest by farmers over farm produce prices at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Collins

“And the price that beef farmers are getting in Ireland is similar to the European average and higher than it is outside of Europe. So that is the truth of it. There isn’t anything we can do to increase the price of beef,” Mr Varadkar said.

However, he said the Government was seeking to help where it could.

“What we can do is put in place income supports, we’ve done that already, about €120 million having gone to beef farmers this year to help support their incomes and we can also continue to open new markets around the world, particularly in Asia, and that is what we’re doing,” he said.

“So we’re doing what we can, but we also need to be honest with farmers about what we can’t do and that is increase the beef price. It’s not under our control.”

Mr Varadkar said Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed had already met farmers this morning but none of the farming organisations were part of the process and there was “no clear leadership, so it is difficult to engage with them”.