Breaking the “stranglehold” beef processors and multinationals have over farmers must be the absolute priority for the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), according to IFA treasurer and presidential candidate Tim Cullinan.

Launching his campaign at The Ragg, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on Friday night, September 6, in front of hundreds of supporters, Cullinan said that “privately owned companies and multinationals, whose global expansion is built on the high-quality produce from farmers, are not passing a cent of that growth back to the farmer”.

Cullinan said: “As leader of the IFA, I want to push back against the pressures on farmers, farm families and indeed the pressure on rural Ireland.

The IFA must make a difference on the big issues coming down the tracks and the issues that we can’t anticipate that will arise over the next four years.

The Tipperary farmer said the organisation and the IFA membership is a “massive resource” to fight for farmers and farm families, but “strong leadership of the IFA is critical” in delivering results.

“I want IFA to be a strong and effective organisation that farmers from every sector and every county in the country will know is fighting for them,” he said.

Highlighting the ongoing beef protests, Cullinan said: “This situation should never have come about and has been building up for years.

“This is what happens when farmers become frustrated with issues not being addressed.

The beef barons have exploited their power and got into the habit of treating their farmer suppliers with disrespect because nobody, nobody called a halt with serious determination.

“At the same time, these same wealthy beef barons have received hundreds of millions of euros in Government grants over the past 20 years.”

Continuing, he said: “The factories and the minister this week played up the risk of upsetting the Chinese inspectors visiting Ireland but for whose gain? Certainly not the farmers.

“I want to see the Chinese market opened and the minister has made great play of opening the market which I commend. But what the minister did not do was to place any demand on the factories to pass back the benefits to farmers.”

Cullinan recently demanded an investigation by the competition authority into the cartel grip of the beef barons on the industry and promised he would not relent on this, adding:

The competition authority has proven worse than useless and continues to overlook factories acting in unison with the same price across the board every Friday evening and Monday morning.

“I have demanded an urgent investigation, but as a first step, I’ve called on the competition authority to put an immediate stop to the cartel which operates through Ibec. I’m restating that demand tonight and believe me I am not finished with the competition authority,” he said.

“This is the same authority that was quick to carry out a smash-and-grab raid of IFA’s offices eight years ago, with 15 officers sent into IFA to raid computers and files.

“The same authority hasn’t asked one question of Ibec or laid a hand on the business organisation who, for many years, has been representing the factories and retailers that drive down prices paid to farmers,” Cullinan said.