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Farmers taking part in their round the clock protest outside Kepak in Tiermaclane, which has now been called off. Photograph by John Kelly

beef farmers suspend “illegal blockade” at Kepak

Protesting beef farmers have officially halted their 24-hour “illegal blockade” outside a local meat factory to allow fellow beef producers sell livestock to address cash flow and specification issues.

Clare beef farmers suspended their picket from the Kepak plant in Drumquin from midnight on Friday night.

However, the Independent Farmers’ Group has warned protests will resume if progress is not made in relation to price and engagement with the producer organisations.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Kepak the company claimed its Clare plant has been the most severely affected of sites by the “Beef Plan Movement’s illegal blockades”, with all processing suspended there effectively since August 2.

Kepak have now laid off 1,400 people including all staff at Kepak Clare. Kepak is endeavouring to provide our colleagues with every support and assistance during this difficult time.

It is now evident that self-appointed protesters are creating chaos in the Irish beef industry with little regard for its long-term future,” said a company spokesman.

The Clare branch of the Beef Plan Movement formally withdrew from the protest in Drumquin on August 9 last.

Independent farmers who are not aligned to farming organisations were continuing to protest outside the Drumquin plant, in spite of a second agreement brokered recently between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and seven farming organisation including the Beef Plan Movement.

They described the company’s statement as “spin” and “propaganda”.

While there was no indication demonstrating farmers were ready to call off their 24-hour protest on Tuesday night pressure intensified later in the week to call off the so-called “illegal blockade”.

A statement issued from the Independent Farmers’ group confirmed they have “reluctantly decided to temporarily suspend” the peaceful protests at Kepak Watergrasshill, Kepak, Ennis, Dawn Meats Charleville, ABP Bandon, ABP Waterford and Dawn Meats Grannagh from midnight on Friday.

The group also says they have considered the thousands of meat factory workers who have temporarily been laid of as a result of being used as “public relations” pawns by their employers against farmers.

They also expressed concern about the impact this “bitter dispute” may be having on export markets.

This dispute is as a result of decades of neglect of Irish beef farmers by our political leaders both in Ireland and in the EU, this is combined with inept representation by our farming organisations especially the IFA who only last week stated by their leader, Joe Healy his opposition to the 30-months age limit while throughout the talks last week he adamantly defended its retention.

This is the worst form of hypocrisy and farmers deserve to hear the truth. The cheap food policy of the EU has seen reduced and poorly distributed CAP payments along with rapidly increased costs in the beef sector while the price farmers receive for their beef is similar to 30 years ago.

Retailers and processors have continuously operated in a vacuum of information regarding the distribution of profits in relation to costs of processing and selling Irish beef to consumers while forcing unsustainable losses on Irish beef farmers using weather events such as last summer’s drought and previously periods of wet weather to unjustifiably cut prices.

However, the farmers will no longer accept the punitive market shares they receive despite incurring the vast majority of costs of producing beef from farm to fork.

Bord Bia also has questions to answer both in failing to properly market Irish beef abroad, especially outside of European markets and its ambiguous release of questionable labeling information to the public regarding the current crisis,” the statement outlined.

Dan Danaher

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