Minister for Agriculture meets farmers and processors in beef dispute

One point of tension has been concessions sought by farming groups from processors

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed met each of the groups separately in a number of bilateral meetings in the afternoon, before roundtable talks with all parties resumed in the evening, sources said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed met each of the groups separately in a number of bilateral meetings in the afternoon, before roundtable talks with all parties resumed in the evening, sources said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Negotiations between farming groups and meat processors over pricing and other matters in the beef sector continued into Tuesday evening.

The talks began last week between Meat Industry Ireland, the representative body for processors, and farmer organisations including the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), and Beef Plan, a grassroots movement that organised pickets of factories over the summer.

Discussions went on late into Monday night, with tensions heightened between the two sides over a failure to find further consensus on a number of issues, one source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

On Tuesday, the third day of talks, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed got involved with the negotiations.

Mr Creed met each of the groups separately in a number of bilateral meetings in the afternoon, before roundtable talks with all parties resumed in the evening, sources said.

One point of tension between sides has been concessions sought by farming groups from processors on a bonus paid on cattle under 30 months of age.

In a statement on Monday night, IFA president Joe Healy said Mr Creed had agreed to join the talks “with a view to resolving the outstanding issues, especially around the 30-month age limit”.

Broad agreement was reached last week on a range of issues, including concessions by processors on weighing animals prior to slaughter for a nominal charge and to providing contracts between factories and farmers in written format.

The grassroots Beef Plan Movement is seeking a “survival line” cash injection from the State and Brussels to “avoid a complete devastation of beef farming”.

According to a briefing document circulated in advance of talks on Monday, the group is asking the Government and the European Union to make up the difference between the market rate being paid for cattle, around €3.50 per kg, and a “survival line” of €4 per kg for farmers.

The group said the current weakness in the market price is Brexit-related.

“Our Government and the EU have said all along that they would not let beef farmers be out of pocket as a result of losses that are Brexit-related.

“Therefore, the Government and EU now have a responsibility to find whatever amount of money that is the shortfall between the market price and the farmers survival line. We believe this money should be given to the factories.

“In return the factories have to give a cast iron guarantee that the money paid to the farmer never drops below the survival line between now and February,” the document stated.