The decision by meat processors to pull out of talks on the beef sector has been criticised by one of the farmer groups that was due to attend the negotiations today, Monday, September 9.

Edmond Phelan, the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), claimed that, if Meat Industry Ireland (MII) did not reverse its decision, it would be “simply pressing the self-destruct button on the beef industry here”.

“There is still time between now and 7:00pm this evening for a change of stance on this,” said Phelan, labelling the move by MII a “knee-jerk decision”.

The onus is on the processors now; it is up to them to come to the talks and to bring real offers to the table. Current beef prices mean that every system of beef farming is losing money.

“The meat industry can no longer ignore the reality that beef farmers have to make a living, because without them making a living, there will be no future for their business either,” said the ICSA president.

Phelan went on: “Farmers cannot survive at current prices which are way below the cost of production. ICSA is adamant that each and every mechanism through which a sustainable beef price can be achieved must be explored.

“Cracks are beginning to show in the 30-month rule, and equally the 70-day rule is becoming more and more difficult to justify,” he highlighted.

I would urge MII to get to the table and engage meaningfully with us on these important issues.

Earlier this afternoon, MII released a statement announcing that the processors had decided to step away from the talks, citing the ongoing farmer protests as the reason.

“During an initial engagement with the independent chair and government officials, MII communicated that protesters had failed to step back from factory gate blockades and had instead intensified these illegal blockades,” said the statement.

“MII requested the minister [Michael Creed] and the independent chairman to use their best endeavors to have blockades lifted to enable talks. The MII delegation adjourned its participation in the talks until all illegal blockades are lifted,” the statement explained.