‘Nothing preventing minister from engaging with farmers’

Fianna Fáil has criticised the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for “watching from the sidelines” as protests by the Beef Plan Movement continue around the country.

Charlie McConalogue, the party’s spokesperson on agriculture, said that there was nothing preventing Minister Michael Creed from engaging with demonstrating farmers from the movement and other farmer groups, and called on the minister to do so “immediately”.

“It is simply not acceptable that Minister Creed continues to watch from the sidelines as the Beef Crisis escalates, with continuing pickets by the Beef Plan Movement at factory gates this week and last week’s protests by the IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association] at the EU Veterinary Office in Co. Meath,” argued the Donegal TD.

The only contribution that Minister Creed has offered at this time of growing crisis is that he cannot become involved because the Government can’t directly intervene in the determination of prices paid to farmers.

McConalogue argued that Minister Creed’s role was to “provide leadership”, and that Government has “a central role to play” in addressing the issues that farmers are raising.

“He should meet with all stakeholders immediately to discuss how these can be addressed and, in particular, how transparency can be brought into the beef supply chain,” suggested the Fianna Fáil spokesperson.

He went on to call for the minister to mediate discussions between farmer protesters and the processing sector.

While he cannot address this directly, he can certainly ensure that a mechanism is put in place to enable engagement between the Beef Plan Movement, farming organisations and the meat processing sector.

McConalogue’s sentiments were echoed by his party colleague Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on food and horticulture, who said: “Minister Creed and the Government need to recognise the unbearable financial pressure that beef farmers are under, and the role he must play in addressing it.”

The Co. Tipperary TD called for live exports to be increased over the coming months to “provide more competition in the market”.

We also need to see a commitment that further financial support will be available to address the losses being experienced. Base beef prices are now lower than experienced during the reference period of September to May, covered by the recently announced €100 million EU co-funded BEAM scheme.

Cahill concluded by saying: “Further assistance for farmers is going to be required, and Minister Creed needs to provide the assurances that this will be forthcoming.”