‘Beef farmers protest is a cry from the brink of ruin’

Farmers protest outside the Meadow Meats plant in Rathdowney Co Laois
Farmers protest outside the Meadow Meats plant in Rathdowney Co Laois

Protests by beef farmers which have been taking place throughout the County over the last 24 hours point to the total failure of the Government’s strategy to come to grips with the crisis according to Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Deputy McGrath was speaking from the AIPB Meat Processing Plant in Cahir Co. Tipperary where he joined with the farmers both overnight and today protesting over poor beef prices.

“This issue has been gaining pace since February when the beef farmers were forced to take their protest to the Dáil in order to highlight Government inaction toward the cartel like behaviour of the beef factory industry. That industries decision to target prime steers and heifers with new price and weight cut specifications has totally destabilised the viability of the beef sector in this county. The Department of Agriculture have contributed to this by essentially backing away from the factory owners and adopting an overly diplomatic approach to their actions.”

Deputy McGrath said in August Minister of State at Agriculture Tom Hayes admitted publicly that the UK’s Tesco group and the Irish meat industry were essentially dictating completely unacceptable terms to Irish beef farmers; an admission which was staggeringly depressing at the time.

He said when he was pressed about the causes of the crisis he first said that it was primarily down to a problem of supply and demand. That beef was simply not as desirable a commodity this year as it was last year.

“But we know for a fact that this has little or nothing to do with the current crisis. The fact is that in the last year UK retailers have been systematically enforcing specifications aimed entirely at gaining a competitive commercial advantage to the detriment of the Irish beef farmer.

“The fact of the matter is that beef farmers have been enduring these kinds of manipulative tactics from the industry for a considerable period of time. Their sole concern is to back beef farmers into a corner where they are then left with no option but to sell their livestock at significantly reduced prices.

“It is a crisis being deliberately generated by the industry with scant regard for the ability of farmers to sustain their livelihoods. It is my hope that today’s protests which are peaceful and the last resort for all of us will finally awaken the Government to the true nature of the crisis and force it to intervene more effectively before the beef sector goes beyond the point of no return.”