More than 300 South Tipperary farmers took part in a 48-hour blockade of the ABP plant in Cahir this week and have warned their protests will continue if beef prices aren’t significantly increased by the meat industry.
Cahir ABP was one of 15 meat processing factories around the country blockaded by IFA members from 3pm on Sunday to 3pm yesterday (Tuesday).
IFA and meat processing industry representatives resume talks today (Wednesday) to resolve the dispute at the Beef Forum chaired by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
Speaking from the Cahir ABP blockade yesterday, South Tipperary IFA Chairman Simon Ryan said the mood among the county’s farmers was that they will be back protesting again if the talks don’t succeed in increasing cattle prices.
“We want to give the talks a chance, we want the Forum to work and we want results from these talks but the mood here among farmers is that we have no issue with coming back here in two to three weeks time.”
Mr Ryan, a suckler farmer from Emly, said there was a €350 price gap between what farmers are paid for cattle in the UK and Ireland. It was the biggest margin in 20 years, he said.
He said farmers weren’t making enough money from cattle to cover their production costs. According to Teagasc figures, farmers need to be paid €4 per kilo at the moment for their cattle coming off grass to make any profit margin but they were only getting €3.75 per kilo and this was after an increase of 5c to 10c in prices in the last few weeks.
“Farmers are concerned about their livelihoods. What future do they have as beef farmers and what future does the Irish meat industry have if they can’t make a margin,” he asked. “The people employed in the meat industry would not have a job without the raw material they get from farmers,” he added.
Meat Industry Ireland said the blockade had damaged the business of its members, imposing further costs on meat processing companies and affected the supply of fresh beef to important customers.
It welcomed the Beef Forum and said negotiations need to be done around the table and not through blockades, business disruption and media soundbites. MII claimed the price comparators quoted by the IFA were misleading and said official EU Commission figures verify that the Irish cattle price is over 101% of the EU average.