Cancelled inspection ‘a massive own goal for farmers’ – Kepak

The cancellation of an inspection at the Kepak beef and sheepmeat plant in Athleague, Co. Roscommon, “is a massive own goal” for farmers, according to a statement from the processor.

This morning, Monday, September 2, it was reported that an inspection – due to be carried out today by Chinese officials with a view to approving the plant for exporting sheepmeat products to the country – was cancelled due to a protest at the site.

Kepak says that the plant management arranged for the delivery of 90 cattle this morning, but on arrival these vehicles “were met with up to 40 protesters who illegally blockaded the entrance and refused to allow any livestock trucks pass, despite the existence of a High Court injunction preventing such blockades”.

“The local Gardaí arrived but failed to secure safe passage for any of the hauliers, despite the blockade being illegal,” the Kepak statement claimed.

Members of management then directly spoke with protesters on the site, where they were told that no lorries would be allowed to pass. Kepak also alleges that members of staff were “verbally threatened” by protesters.

After consulting with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the processor outlined that Kepak Athleague management “were left with no other option but to cancel the scheduled inspection”.

“The department and the Irish meat sector have spent a number of years negotiating for and setting up these visits. Until today, all inspections of other sites had taken place as per the planned schedule,” says Kepak.

The statement went on: “Given the uncertainty around Brexit and the current weak meat market across Europe, China is one significant growth market that offers great potential for Irish beef and lamb.

“This behaviour today, by people who claim to represent the interests of farmers, is a massive own goal and the cost of the failure to get this site Chinese-export approved will be primarily borne by west of Ireland farmers for many years,” the statement concluded.