IFA blocks Tesco central distribution centre in latest beef protest

Additional reporting by Breifne O’Brien in Donabate, Co. Dublin

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) blockaded the Tesco central distribution centre in Donabate, Co. Dublin, as part of the ongoing farmer campaign for an increase in beef prices.

Kicking off early this morning, Monday, December 9, from 7:00am, the protest will last 12 hours and follows similar action at the Aldi and Lidl central distribution centres last week.

IFA president Joe Healy said last week’s statement by Larry Goodman’s ABP group that the firm would increase prices “bizarrely contained no specific figure”.

“This is typical of the lack of transparency from meat factories,” the president said. Continuing, he added:

“From talking to farmers, it would seem that generally the price rises appear to be 5c/kg for heifers and 10c/kg for steers.

This still leaves the Irish price well short of the Bord Bia EU Benchmark and it remains over 50c off the UK price as their market continues to strengthen.

“The UK price increased again last week and sterling improved to 84p/€ last Friday,” he said.

“It is clear, based on market increases, that the factories including ABP could have increased cattle prices some weeks ago, but they did not,” Healy said.

“Instead, they pocketed the increases for themselves and refused to pass it back to farmers. Meat Industry Ireland (MII) representing the factories adopted the same stalling tactic at the Beef Taskforce,” he said.

Farmers are also appalled to see Tesco advertising ‘half price’ beef in the last few days. This unsustainable discounting puts downward pressure on beef prices and is an insult to farmers and the work they do.

Healy said that his organisation will continue its action until a “substantial price increase” is given, adding that the IFA doesn’t have to “wait until price setting Friday”, as sought by ABP.

“This sort of controlling practice only serves to fuel the belief amongst farmers that ABP is abusing its dominant position in the market.

“I would call on the other meat processors to break from this practice and announce a further price increase immediately, in line with increases in the market,” Healy concluded.

Tesco Response

In a statement responding to the blockade, a spokesperson for Tesco Ireland said:

“At Tesco, we have always maintained a good working relationship with the IFA and in recent weeks had a very constructive meeting, so today’s action at our Distribution Centre is regrettable.

“Tesco is one of the biggest supporters and purchasers of Irish food and drink globally. We are proud that all our own-label fresh beef, pork, lamb and chicken is 100% Irish and Bord Bia approved.

All Tesco own-label fresh beef is sourced through processors, who agree prices directly with farmers.

“The price customers pay for beef products in our stores is not related to the price farmers receive from the processors. As a business we pay for any price promotions we run.

“Tesco supports the work of the Beef Market Taskforce and agrees that it is the correct mechanism for resolving the current challenges in the beef sector,” the spokesperson concluded.