Farmers are being called on to join producer organisations (POs) so that “control of beef and sheep prices is brought back to farmers rather than leaving it to processors”.

That’s the message from TD Seán Canney, Minister of State at the Department for Rural and Community Development, who was speaking following a meeting in Loughrea, Co. Galway, yesterday, Monday, October 21, which was organised by the new Irish Beef Producers’ group.

“Beef producers need to join producer groups. I am also strongly recommending that sheep farmers come together to form POs to represent their interests in negotiating prices with factories,” the minister told farmers at the meeting, which was also addressed by Supermac’s owner Pat McDonagh.

Control of meat prices must be brought back to the farmers, rather than leaving it with the processors.

On the Beef Market Taskforce, Minister Canney told the members of Irish Beef Producers – which was established by the Beef Plan Movement – that it was “imperative that the taskforce, which didn’t meet last week, is reconvened and gets to work, because issues relating to beef have to be discussed and progress must be made on this issue”.

“Farmers need a critical mass of suppliers when dealing with the processors. Otherwise they will suffer and will remain at the mercy of factories,” the Galway East TD warned.

He added: “These organisations can then get prices from the factories on a weekly basis and communicate them to their members. The decision will rest with the farmers and the power will also rest with the farmers.

These groups can be set up and can be recognised by the Department of Agriculture, as there is a recognition that farmers need to have collective bargaining power.

Supermac’s managing director McDonagh also gave an impassioned defence of producer groups at the meeting, as well as issuing some stark warnings for the sector.

“I am warning here tonight that unless Government and the processing sector of the beef industry take measures right now to safeguard this industry, Ireland’s beef industry will close,” McDonagh said.

He told the meeting: “You will need to be organised as a single entity to make your case against processors. You will need the best professional legal representation. You never needed to be organised as much as you need to be now.”