Angry farmers may stage a rolling demonstration outside a local beef processor unless there is a breakthrough in the national dispute over beef prices, local IFA leaders have warned.
Clare IFA chairman, Andrew Dundas has not ruled out a resumption of the action, which involved the staging of protests outside 30 meat plants recently.
Mr Dundas warned that Clare farmers would be back on the picket line on Sunday unless there is a major improvement in beef prices from meat processors and a permanent solution to market specification issues. This could include a demonstration outside venues in Ennis and Nenagh.
The Clare IFA leader confirmed a final decision on whether or not to take further action against beef factories would be taken following a meeting this weekend.
“There is still a lot of anger amongst Clare farmers, with the huge gap that has opened up between Ireland and the UK. Beef prices have risen by about 30 cent per kilo in the UK, compared to between five and 10 cent per kilo in Ireland. The gap between both countries is still almost €1 a kilo.
“If a decision is taken to go to the gates, it will not be a 24-hour protest, it will continue for as long as it takes. The prospect of further protest is a distinct possibility. A lot of Clare farmers wanted the demonstration to go ahead on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. It is up to meat plants to pay a fair price for beef. If that doesn’t happen, there will be more protests. Beef prices haven’t increased enough,” he warned.
He called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to ensure beef factories do not abuse the payment system.
Expressing frustration over the specification system, he said earlier this year he was penalised by 50 cent a kilo for an animal that weighed over 400 kilos. However, if he presented an animal with the same weight this week, no penalty would be applied.
He proposed the 30-month requirement for accepting animals for slaughter should be increased to 36 months, to prevent a glut of cattle coming onto the market in August and September, which would also help to improve prices.
His concerns were shared by former Clare IFA chairman, Michael Lynch, who supports calls for further action unless there is an improvement in price.
Meat Industry Ireland, which represents processors, disputes the figures used by IFA and said the price comparisons are over-simplistic, inappropriate and wholly misleading.
Meanwhile, Deputy Joe Carey believes a new agreement to open up the Chinese beef market will help improve prices in the future, following a trade mission to China led by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
“Following two years of intensive technical engagement between the Irish Department of Agriculture and their Chinese counterparts, it has been agreed that a formal inspection team from China will visit Ireland this December.
“The Irish beef industry will have a golden opportunity in December to showcase to the Chinese delegation our world-class beef product. The potential here for Irish farmers is enormous.
“Demand for beef in China is expected to rise by one million tonnes over the next five years,” he said.