September 17, 2019

Irish beef farmers continue protest despite latest agreement


Irish beef farmers and processors have reached an agreement over the weekend following the recent unhappiness of farmers over prices paid to producers versus retail prices.

The second round of talks led to an agreement which includes an increase in the in-spec bonus for steers and heifers from 12c/kg to 20c/kg; a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus; and a new in-spec bonus of 12c/kg for steers and heifers under 30 months which grade O- and fat class 4+, GlobalMeatNews reported.

Also part of the agreement are a number of interventions that will directly benefit beef producers, and strategic measures that addresses structural imbalances in the beef sector.

However, the deal appeared to do little to assuage Irish farmers, and there are still ongoing protests at many meat plants. Protesters are upset about the prices they get for beef with returns down as much as €150 (US$165.12) per head of cattle.

In response, Ireland's Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, cautioned farmers in an open letter not to be "responsible for (the Irish beef sector's) destruction." 

The president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), Joe Healy, said that the deal was "far from perfect." He added: "While there are some aspects which will make a difference immediately, there are others that will require a lot of further work."


Nevertheless, Creed called for farmers to "give the agreement a chance," while also considering the implications of continuing protests.


Moreover, as highlighted by Meat Industry Ireland (MII) - one of the parties involved in the talk - the agreement demands an immediate end to all protests and blockades so as to allow the resumption of normal operations. The organisation said that the new deal has "significant positive financial initiatives by MII members, in areas of specifications, bonuses and supply chain transparency."

"The future of the sector is now in the balance. If you are of the view that you have no future in beef farming anyway - please consider those who wish to keep going," Creed remarked. The minister admitted that "the agreement is a compromise," and "Nobody got everything they wanted."


He also claimed that the issue of a price increase is a matter that could not be legally discussed - an assertion confirmed by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission which told the Irish Independent that discussions on pricing were generally prohibited under competition law

"We agreed a number of new and increased bonuses. Importantly, there is now a bonus for animals finished at over 30 months of age. I know this is a major matter of principle for many of you. I also know that there were calls to end the bonus structure in totality and that some farmers argue that it is anti-competitive," Creed further elaborated.


"The meat industry argues that they are critical to maintaining important markets. We all agreed to have the issue examined independently so that we can review it all with the facts on the table thereafter."


Creed revealed that an independent chairman to a beef market taskforce will be appointed to "oversee the implementation of this agreement in its entirety."


So far, major farming bodies have accepted the agreement.


But, Independent Farmers, a group formed to represent the protesters, expressed no support or opposition to the deal, and said that a meeting would have to be held to determine the next course of action.


- Farming Independent / GlobalMeatNews