Farmers who were protesting at Kepak Ballymahon recently
After almost two months of protests outside of meat factories and processing facilities, farmers have officially stood down from picket lines, with the last of protests in Ballyjamesduff and Ballinasloe coming to an end on Sunday evening, September 22.
The conclusion of pickets came after a meeting among farmers in Ballyhaunis, where it was decided the widespread cessation of protests should take place, after legal threats made against leaders of the Beef plan movement.
Pickets at Kepak Ballymahon, Kepak Kilbeggan and Kepak in Athleague were officially stood down over the weekend, with farmers vacating their posts after almost eight weeks.
Protests in Kepak Athleague officially came to an end late on Friday, with farmers issuing a statement saying they are now prepared to give time to the agreement, agreed by major stakeholders within the industry last week, for the ‘betterment’ of the sector.
They issued a ‘sincere thank you’ to every man, woman and child, who engaged in peaceful protests or supported them in one way or another.
“A sincere thank you must go to every man, woman and child who took part in or supported the peaceful protest over the last number of weeks.
“People have devoted countless hours of their valuable time to the protest in an effort to highlight the issues within the sector, and for that farmers will be eternally grateful.
“A special word of thanks must also go to people and local businesses who donated food, groceries, sandwiches, hot meals, coffee, tea, the marquee, lights, generator, toilet facilities, fuel for the fire and much more in order to sustain the peaceful protest for so long.”
Although officially standing down from protests, they warned that they reserve the right to return to the pickets, should a lack of sufficient progress be made.
“While farmers are willing to allow time for the agreement reached last weekend to be implemented, we reserve the right to return to the picket lines in the future if sufficient progress is not being made on the various points outlined in the agreement.”
Eamon Corley of the Beef plan movement, issued a statement on Sunday night, updating farmers on the situation as it stands.
He said: “As most people know it was agreed that I would have overall responsibility for among other things producer groups. I have lead a group of people who have worked hard putting structures in place that will be necessary for the successful operation of a producer organisation.
“2,500 people have completed surveys to give us the information that we will need for the factories so we can broker the best deals. Factories have been negotiated with for the purposes of contract killing cattle and regular contact has been maintained with meat buyers so as to facilitate beef sales in the near future.
“We will also be brokering the best deals possible with factories with the new power of the PO. We have sought both legal advice and the advice of an accountancy firm along with our PO facilitator to ensure that we have the correct structures and business plan in place to enable us to have a fully transparent producer organisation that will be there solely for the betterment of beef farmers.”
Mr Corley also confirmed that farmers can expect the ‘green light’ for their producer organisation in the coming days, before warning people to first read the rules carefully before joining any producer group.
He stated: “I think it is only fair to point out to people that they can only be part of one producer group. If you do join a producer group, make sure you read the rules before you sign anything.
“Make sure you read the business plan and satisfy yourself that adequate funding has been factored in to facilitate a successful producer organisation.”
Mr Corley concluded by stating there are ‘exciting days ahead’.
“I look forward to delivering this project with your help at a time when it was never as badly needed.
“Membership forms and the full set of rules for the official Beef Plan Producer Organisation wiĺl be available within days.”
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) confirmed on Monday, September 23, that all illegal blockades have now been removed from member beef processing facilities throughout the country.
They also confirmed that beef processing has recommenced in some sites on Monday and will be fully operational later this week. Sheep processing has also recommenced in the west of Ireland plants.
MII say Beef processors are contacting employees who were regrettably laid-off over recent weeks to inform them that they will be recommencing processing this week.
“Unfortunately, members are stating that some personnel will not be returning to work in the beef sector as they have gained employment in other sectors.”
MII then confirmed that members have already been in contact with their regular farmer suppliers to schedule deliveries, which have been prevented over the last eight weeks.
They estimate that over 100,000 cattle that would, in normal circumstances, have been processed by now, have been backed up due to the disruption over recent weeks.