Protests ‘risk damaging farmer livelihoods’ – Woods

Calls are mounting for meat plant protesters around the country to step away from protests, with the national livestock chairperson of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) adding his voice to these pleas.

Angus Woods – who is also running for president of the IFA in the association’s upcoming election – said that cattle trade needed to be allowed to “normalise”.

Speaking at the 2019 National Ploughing Championships in Co. Carlow, Woods said that the protests “risk damaging the livelihoods of all farmers and need to stop now”.

Significant progress was made in talks over last weekend with Minister Creed, and agreed to by all the organisations represented, including the factories, the department, and seven farm organisations.

“The continuing protests outside the meat factories are damaging our industry and increase the likelihood of undermining the cattle trade and the reputation of the Irish beef sector at home and in our vital export markets, which could further undermine prices,” Woods continued.

Woods believes that continuing the blockades “does not represent the wishes of the vast majority of farmers”.

“They could hardly be happening at a worse time for cattle farmers. Livestock farmers right across the country need to move cattle – to the factories, the autumn sales or for live export,” he added.

Livestock farmers are also facing down the barrel of a no-deal Brexit with serious price implications for our most important export market in the UK, which takes over 300,000t of Irish beef exports annually.

According to the IFA livestock chair, the agreement reached last weekend between a number of farmer representative groups and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) – brokered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – is a step towards price transparency and a “fairer market”.

He went on: “The focus of all cattle farmers should be on holding the factories, Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture to account on the commitments they gave in the talks.

“We need a united front among cattle farmers, and indeed all farmers. The protests have to stop now and the commitments given in the beef talks delivered on – by the factories, the department, Teagasc and Bord Bia,” the IFA presidential hopeful concluded.