September 18, 2019

Irish beef producer forced to postpone US$7.2 million investment due to farmers' protest



Kepak, one of Ireland's major beef producers, is forced to postpone a multi-million euro investment in one of its beef plants due to ongoing protests by Irish farmers.

In a public statement, the company slammed protesters for fomenting trouble in the beef industry, leading to Kepak's decision to postpone a "major €6.5 million (US$7.2 million) investment at its Clare site in Drumquin as a direct result of the ongoing illegal blockades." It believed that the "illegal blockades of Irish meat processors" will not help resolve matters pertaining to weak prices for beef - a problem which Kepak described as an EU-wide challenge.


According to Kepak, the Clare site is the most affected by ongoing blockades, with all processing within the facility stopped since August 2. The company also said that many of the protesters "are not known as suppliers to Kepak Clare."


"The short-term hardship and financial stress imposed on staff and farmers, exacerbated by an overhang of factory ready stock, arising from the illegal blockades, is extreme and indiscriminate," Kepak said.


The company highlighted the challenges the Irish beef sector faced as EU customers turn to other countries for beef and "loyal customers" are concerned about "the reliability of the Irish beef sector as a dependable supplier." 


So far, errant farmers have been exhorted by both the former and current Agriculture Ministers of Ireland to end their protests so that normal operations at plants can resume. However, protests did not appear to abate even after an agreement was struck between farming bodies and producers over the weekend.


"I appeal to farmers, to the silent majority. We are at a critical point. We are now witnessing real self harm to our beef industry," Michael Creed, the current Agriculture Minister, told RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland.


SIPTU agri-sector representative Terry Bryan warned that the blockades could cause a "self-destruction" of the beef sector as thousands were already laid off from factories.


- Irish Examiner