Longford farmers join nationwide protest as Beef Plan Movement up the ante

Kevin Forde

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Kevin Forde

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kevin.forde@longfordleader.ie

Longford farmers join nationwide protest as Beef Plan Movement up the ante

We will not be 'Moooved' - Farmers from Longford, Westmeath and surrounding areas join forces outside a meat factory in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, as part of the nationwide Beef Plan Movement protest

The Beef Plan Movement (BPM) began their countrywide protest outside meat factories and processors almost two weeks ago in a bid to get more money for their stock.

Members of the 40,000+ strong movement rallied their troops outside of plants such as Kepak Athleague, Liffey Meats Ballinasloe, Kepak Kilbeggan, ABP Bandon, Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis and Dawn Meats Rathdowney, before expanding protests to other meat processing facilities throughout the country, covering sixteen in total.

Upon beginning their quest for better prices, the BPM asked farmers across Ireland to; Not go to the local co-op, Not sell cattle at the local mart, Not go to the factory with cattle and not go to the local town to shop, to help ‘save rural Ireland’.

At the commencement of the BPM peaceful protests, the base price for steers was €3.45/kg, with heifers making €3.55/kg, young bulls making from €3.20-€3.50/kg and cow prices varying from €2.70 to €3.30 per kg.

As protests began, farmers began asking vets, hauliers and farmers making their way into each respective factory/processing facility to refrain from crossing the picket line in respect for the farmer protest.

With many opting to side with the farmers and refraining to cross the picket, many factories began suspending operations due to a lack of cattle, though reports circulated of factory owners offering farmers up to €4/kg, to get more stock through the gates.

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Denis Naughten posted to confirm the news: “I have received reports today of farmers being offered €4/kg for cattle.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the plants offering this are not doing it at a loss, which clearly shows that somebody is making a significant margin on the backs of Irish farmers.” On Friday morning, August 2, representatives from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) requested that the BPM cancelled all protests in order to commence talks between opposing parties. This idea was rejected out of hand by members of BPM due to preconditions set by MII.

Many Longford farmers have rallied in support of the BPM protest, joining in protests at Kepak Kilbeggan, Kepak Athleague and Liffey Meats Ballyjamesduff.

Emmet Duffy of Longford BMPM said: “There is nothing left to lose at this stage at farm level, because incomes can’t really get any worse than they are.

“The consumer is buying a premium product and paying for that premium product, but currently farmers are getting almost a commodity price for their produce,” he continued.

Emmet said farmers and vets alike have been respecting the picket and called for others to follow suit in the days ahead.

He stated: “The hope would be that other vets who call to other factories would do the same.

“We can’t block anybody from going in, but we are stopping and asking farmers just to reconsider killing their cattle and cheap, until the matter is resolved.”

Emmet told the Leader that protesting is the only option for many farmers, who have no alternative to beef farming.

He said: “Rural Ireland recognises the significance of beef farmers.

“For a lot of farmers, they are stuck with beef. They don’t have another option, especially in the midlands, west and northwest.”

The protests continue countrywide this week, with members of the rural community urged to come along to their nearest meat factory or processing facility and show their support .

“This is going to run indefinitely, until MII in particular come up with solutions to the current problem,” Emmet confirmed.

“The whole industry as it stands is not functioning properly and it is unlikely to ever function properly, unless farmers take a stand.

“Anyone involved in the industry should support us, whether or not they are members of any other farm organisation,” he urged.

BPM say their main frustrations are with the ongoing low prices offered to farmers for beef, coupled with a lack of engagement from the major stakeholders in the industry.

They are calling for a mechanism to ensure the farmer is paid at the cost of production and say the protests will continue until a resolution is met.

“Farmers are not contractually obliged to supply cattle to processors. Until a meaningful resolution has been reached, the peaceful protests, which have gained in numbers and support, will continue,” a BPM spokesperson said to the Leader.

“After one week, the kill was down by 27%. The eagerness of processors to source cattle is at odds with the message from MII that the demand for beef is very sluggish.

“Surely the lower kill would not be an issue if the demand is as poor as quoted.”

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