Farmers join in peaceful protest outside Kepak Ballymahon
Farmers from throughout the country have been engaged in peaceful protests outside meat factories and processing facilities for the past number of weeks, in a battle for better prices for their stock.
Late last week, Longford farmers brought the protest to Kepak in Ballymahon, telling the Leader they were ‘all in’ for the foreseeable future should conditions not be met in proposed talks.
Lanesboro farmer Joe Murphy stated: "This protest is here to stay.
"We will stay until Christmas if we have to."
Protesters explained that it is poor returns received for their stock which has pushed them to continue protests, with prices now on par with the late 80s. Other issues highlighted include the 30month rule, the 70 days residency rule and movements.
Ballymahon councillor and beef farmer Paul Ross said farmers cannot continue operating at the current reported losses of €200 per head.
He said: "The 30-month rule is a red-line issue for me.
"We can't continue in this business at this price.
"We can't sell under the market value. It is as simple as that."
Farmers present at the picket in Ballymahon confirmed to the Leader that no animals/livestock hauliers are gaining access to the facility since protests began and they have vowed to continue picketing for as long as needs be.
They also wished to thank local communities and businesses for the support shown since protests began and encouraged other farmers to lend a hand to the cause.
Farmer Martin Scally noted: "We are trying to keep rural Ireland alive as rural Ireland is dying.
"People are leaving in their hundreds because they cannot sustain a living.
"All farmers are asking for is a fair return for working hard," he concluded.
This was not the only peaceful protest taking place in Longford county in recent days, as a group of farmers brought the pickets to pet food producers C&D Foods in Edgeworthstown.
Local councillor and farmer, Paraic Brady, who has been a major figure on picket lines in Ballyjamesduff, confirmed to the Leader that they had moved protests to C&D Foods due to the company’s links with ABP.
Farmers picketing in Edgeworthstown said they were hopeful of some resolution being found during beef crisis talks on Monday, September 9, although that was before Meat Industry Ireland confirmed it had adjourned its participation in the talks until all illegal blockades are lifted.
Cllr Brady said to the Leader: “We don’t want to be here in Edgeworthstown, but we are forced to be here.”
Adding, he said: “I would urge the people sitting at these talks to please take the people seriously. This isn’t going away and farmers are not going away.
“There has been enough lost on everybody’s side at this stage. Just give the farmers a fair price. We are not asking for something ridiculous, we are asking for a fair price.
“We don’t want to have to step it up another gear or two,” Cllr Brady warned.
Cllr Brady admitted his fear for the upcoming National Ploughing championships should beef talks not prove successful.
He said: “I would be fearful for the Ploughing championships going forward if these talks don’t take place and take place with a satisfactory outcome.
“It is the biggest day in the farming calendar and I wouldn’t like to see it spoiled because of the failure of talks.”
Following the conclusion of talks on Monday, September 9, Minister Creed expressed his disappointment at developments and called on all parties to engage in a positive way.
He said: “MII indicated today (Monday) that it is unwilling to enter talks in circumstances where factory gates continue to be blockaded. Despite this I have made the chairman of the talks available to all parties with a view to determining a basis to get the parties back to the table.
“I remain convinced that the only way to resolve these significant challenges for the sector is by negotiation, and that progress can be made on key issues if the parties approach talks in a positive spirit.”
Concluding he said: “I would repeat my request that all stakeholders consider their positions carefully now, and take a step back from action that has the potential to be damaging for the sector as a whole, in order to allow space for meaningful talks to take place.”
As a result of the disappointment surrounding talks on Monday, farmers are continuing with pickets at Kepak in Ballymahon and C&D Foods in Edgeworthstown. They say they will continue with protests until some compromise is reached.