Farmers outline demands at Dawn Meats factory gates
This morning’s beef price protest outside a Dawn Meats plant in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, saw a number of angry farmers come out to protest at the factory gates.
The protest was organised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).
The farmers gathered early this morning to block the gates of the plant over the current state of the beef price.
AgriLand was speaking to some of them to see what they had to say.
Sean Mc Namara (on right) is a suckler-beef farmer from Co. Westmeath and explained to AgriLand that he traveled to the protest to support beef farmers in getting a better, fairer price for their beef.
He explained that the price factories are offering farmers at the moment is “not even covering the cost of production ” and said “we need a significant increase to clear our costs and make a profit”.
A beef enterprise is not feasible with the way prices are at the moment. I would like to see factories pay farmers what their beef is worth and not be trying to hoodwink them into a lower beef price.
He believes factories can afford to pay a lot more for beef, saying “farmers are entitled to a larger percentage of the final profit margin”.
Concluding, he noted that when a new market is opened for beef, a resulting dividend does not convey back to the farmers price.
A suckler-beef farmer from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, Niall McIntire explained that he is protesting against the price factories are paying farmers.
“They are cutting prices with the autumn closing in and if farmers hold on to their cattle they will be cut for having ‘over age’ cattle.”
Niall believes that cutting cattle prices on their age is unjustified saying “it is a racket and it makes no difference what age they are when the steak is on the pan”.
“Farmers are standing and they are taking it from the factories – this is the reason the low beef price is continuing.”
Continuing, he said: “It should be no issue for beef processors to offer a price rise given that they paid themselves millions in dividends this year.”
“They are simply taking advantage of the situation farmers are currently in,” he concluded.
Kevin Durkin is a beef farmer from Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford and said: “What is going on in the factories and what is happening to farmers is not right. That is why I am here today.”
He said that while costs are rising, price is dropping and “if farmers don’t come out and protest, they will perish where they are”.
Kevin believes factories are “taking advantage of the current situation as they see farmers as a soft touch”.
Patrick Flanagan is a suckler-beef farmer from outside Balyhaunis, Co Mayo, and said: “Prices at the moment are a complete joke.”
Commenting on the situation, he said: “At home, we are getting less than what it is costing us to produce the beef.
Being offered €3.70-3.80/kg for top quality Charolais cattle is not fair, its not enough.”
He believes that “new markets should be reflecting on the prices”.
Patrick noted: “Usually new markets would reflect higher prices, because they’re not taking any less for beef in these new countries they are supplying to.
Prices are poor because there was no one standing up to the factories until now and that’s what is wrong.
He also believes that “factories can supply cattle from their own feedlots to avoid rising the beef price and farmers with 50 or 60 cattle cant compete with that”.
He concluded by saying: “Doing the figures, it’s plain to be seen that it is costing well over €4.50/kg to produce beef.”
ICSA president Patrick Kent explained that farmers are protesting outside Dawn Meats to highlight the fact that beef farmers are not getting a justifiable price for their product.
We’re selling it below the cost of production and it just cant go on.
Kent outlined that the issue has got particularly bad in the last month since “they cut the price unfairly at a time when farmers are quite vulnerable after a very difficult year”.
He added that he had requested to meet with the factory representatives but got no reply.
He believes that meeting with with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has “not worked in the past so we need to deal directly with the factories and stakeholders that have more than a PR spin”.
We need to have people who are going to sit down with us and discuss the future because farmers are at a crossroads. They are not going to continue producing beef at a loss.
He concluded by remarking: “With all the talk recently about beef sustainability, there is not much talk about the sustainability of the farmer.”