Irish farmers protest at factory gates over low beef prices and system ‘unfairness’

Irish farmers protest at factory gates over low beef prices and system ‘unfairness’

14 Aug 2019 Alex Black

Irish beef farmers have been protesting outside factory gates over low beef prices with the protestors looking to change the ‘unfairness’ in the system.

Irish farmers protest at factory gates

The processors and farmers had come together for talks this week, following pickets outside beef plants across Ireland and threats of legal action against protestors by the processors.

The Beef Plan movement, which was behind the movement, has been set up by those in the industry to fight for a fairer beef industry and to protect their ‘rural way of life’.

They highlighted the unfairness in the supply chain, with farmers receiving the smallest cut of the beef price despite their role in raising it.

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Richard Hobson from the Beef Plan movement said: “Our primary goal is to get a fairer share, to get a core price of cost plus a margin.”

He said their goals included making changes to movements, a fairer system of grading of cattle and independent inspections.

The group had also set up purchasing groups for inputs themselves and were looking into the possibility of creating their own brand of beef.

Mr Hobson also highlighted the prospects for technology to enhance the beef supply system, suggesting it could help connect consumers better across the whole supply chain.

Mr Hobson warned if the industry did not take action now, there would be no full time beef farmers left in Ireland and he believed the same trends were happening in the UK. And he warned if the beef sector was driven under, the rest of the rural economy would suffer.

Talks between the processors and farmers had been happening this week although Mr Hobson said the retailers had refused to attend.

“There has been some movement,” he said, with talks lasting for more than twelve hours. Protests were put on hold whilst the beef plan consulted with members.

The Irish public had also been very supportive of the protests, with people beeping car horns in support and others even coming joining farmers on the picket lines.

And Mr Hobson said the movement was looking to come to the UK as they believed the two countries needed to work together.

“We are the same farmers on both sides of the Irish sea,” he said.

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has said it will continue to focus its lobbying on EU institutions and Irish Government, which led to €100 million (£92.68m) being secured in aid to beef farmers.

However, it said members were free to make their own decisions on protests or to withhold their stock.

IFA called the threats of legal action ‘heavy-handed, ill-advised and counterproductive’.

Joe Healy, IFA president, said hauling farmers before the courts was not the answer to the challenges facing the sector.

He added the dispute was a product of the desperation farmers felt and if the situation did not improve it would be the end of the beef sector.

He called for Meat Industry Ireland to instead focus on putting forward solutions to the crisis.