The Irish Times: Beef farmers urge producers to ‘keep cattle at home’ as protests spread

Beef farmers protest over prices for their animals during a picket at the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co Kilkenny.

Protesters call on Minister to intervene as 18 beef processing plants picketed

by Tim O’Brien, Sarah Slater | August 6, 2019

Members of the farmers’ group Beef Plan Movement who are protesting against prices paid by beef processors have appealed for cattle rearers across the State “ to keep the cattle at home” over coming days.

Some 18 beef processing plants between counties Cavan and Cork were subject to pickets by the organisation’s members on Tuesday. Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed called on both sides to enter talks.

The beef processing plants represented by Meet Industry Ireland said they were prepared for talks if the pickets were lifted. MII complained the protesters had used “unacceptable abuse and intimidation” of farmers, suppliers and employees. It described the action as “illegal blockades”.

There were tense scenes outside many plants on Tuesday including at Dawn Meats in Co Kilkenny as farmers claimed they were told to move away from factory entrance gates.

The action resulted in traffic tailbacks for several kilometres due to the ongoing row over achieving better beef prices. More than 100 protestors, including women and children, were involved in the picket at Grannagh, Co Kilkenny on day nine of the farmers’ protest.

Jim O’Shea, one of the farmers who has been protesting outside the plant, said they “were left with no other option but to protest out on the road blocking motorists after the company made us get off their property. It’s a bit of a pandemonium [sic] here at the moment”.

At a similar dispute outside Liffey Meats in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, local Beef Plan Movement chairman Pádraig Duffy said the protesters were “not going anywhere until we get resolution of this problem”. He and Carnaross farmer Pat Smith called on farmers “to keep their cattle at home”. They said there was a “big push on” by factories to get cattle in.

‘Three days work’

At the core of the dispute is the price paid to farmers by beef processors, with farmers claiming they get less than processors and retailers after having spent up to two years rearing cattle.

The organisation said out of every €10 spent by the consumer the retailer gets €5.10 “for three days’ work”; the beef processor gets €2.90 for three days’ work, while the farmer gets €2 for two years’ work.

Beef Plan Movement said its objectives included regaining control of animals from birth to slaughter and beyond; returning a cost of production price plus a margin as a minimum and regaining respect within the beef industry.

David Murphy co-chair of Beef Plan Limerick emphasised the need for farmers to receive “the cost of production plus a margin”.

Dermot O’Brien, chair of Beef Plan Southwest, speaking in Rathkeale, Co Limerick said members were “still awaiting full and meaningful engagement with the factories” but support was growing for their action “by the day”. He said the farmers were also still awaiting intervention by the Minister.

IFA treasurer Tim Cullinan also called on Mr Creed to get involved in the dispute. “By refusing to take his responsibilities seriously, the Minister is making himself irrelevant. If he cannot, or will not, do the job he was elected to do then the time is rapidly approaching for him to consider his position.”