Farmer beef protest under way as meat industry body says it’s ‘ill-advised and misguided’

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is protesting outside a number of meat factory plants across Ireland this afternoon.

Addressing a large crowd of livestock farmers at the cattle price protest outside Kepak in Clonee today, IFA president Eddie Downey said there is real anger and frustration with all the meat factories over the way they have cut bull beef prices over the past two months, leaving farmers with major financial losses.

Farmers are also protesting on the cattle price issue outside the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co Waterford and the ABP plant in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Speaking in Clonee, the IFA president said the factory price for bulls has been cut by 30c to 50c/kg or up to €200 per head since last December. “This has seriously eroded confidence among beef farmers and left winter finishers with substantial losses. The price cuts have to stop.”

He said farmers were extremely annoyed with the latest price cuts this week. He said IFA had met all of the meat plants since the New Year outlining the losses at farm level, demanding price stability and a move on the backlog of bulls.

In addition, he said the IFA met with Meat Industry Ireland and senior factory management two weeks ago demanding a halt in the price cuts and an increase in the kill to shift any backlog of bulls. He said while the bull kill increased last week, it was totally unacceptable that further price drops followed.

Downey stressed it is essential that the factories restore some confidence into the beef trade at farm level and make it clear that bull beef prices have bottomed out and will not fall further. In addition, he said the factories have to send a clear signal to their suppliers that the price of In-spec steers and heifers will not come under attack and will move on over the spring period.

In a statement to AgriLand, Meat Industry Ireland, which represents beef processors and factories in Ireland, has described the protests as both ill-advised and misguided.

“Today, despite some weakening due to market conditions, our prime cattle prices remain amongst the highest across Europe. Irish steer and cow prices were third highest in the EU last week and our heifer price was fifth highest.  Overall, the Irish finished cattle price is 102 per cent of the EU average, yet the IFA protests seek to deny the realities of the marketplace,” said MII spokesman Cormac Healy.

He said the beef industry has had significant engagement with the IFA, in one-to-one company meetings throughout the country and at national level in an MII meeting with IFA leadership.

“After such constructive engagement, where the industry agreed to work to clear the backlog of out-of-spec young bulls and explained some of difficulties in the European beef market at present, it is disappointing now to see IFA reverting to these disruptive tactics.”

This latest IFA action will do nothing to improve the returns from the marketplace or tackle the real ‘outside’ threats to the beef sector, the MII spokesman said.

In addition, he said despite weaker demand in the market, the Irish industry has processed 10 per cent more cattle so far this year.

“Market conditions are always more challenging as we head into February as consumers across Europe alter purchasing behaviour in the face of the post-Christmas credit card bills and a period of decreased disposable income.” he added.

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