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Sligo Now


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FARMERS everywhere certainly have a lot on their plates right now. Against a background of widespread claims that agriculture is an energy-hungry industry and a major contributor to the climate change challenge and consumers being urged to move towards plant-based diets, not even mentioning Brexit, Irish farmers on the ground have been struggling to get their “fair share” of the revenue accruing from their labours on the farm.
Beef farmers who have been protesting outside meat factories around the country for more than two weeks over low stock prices have finally agreed to sit down with all the stakeholders, which includes the state and Meat Industry Ireland, who had been threatening legal action if the farmers refused to removed their blockade.
The protests have been organised nationwide by Beef Plan, a movement founded last October, which currently has in the region of 1,000 members in Mayo alone. The protest witnessed outside the Dawn Meats Plant in Ballyhaunis last week (which initiated 200 temporary lay-offs) was part of this campaign. Beef Plan aspires to set up its own co-ops to handle the slaughtering of cattle and market their own beef products. They claim the Government’s €100m Brexit aid measure is only a “fraction of what the industry needs now”.
Essentially, the group wants more money for the beef they are selling to factories before it ends up on shop shelves. They say retailers should take more responsibility for low beef prices at the moment. They want to regain control of an animal from its birth to when it’s slaughtered and implement a minimum cost of production plus a margin. Currently, prices are set by the factories. The person who takes 100% of the risk, the primary producer, has no power in the matter.
Beef prices are down 45 cent per kilogram from last year, according to the IFA. (who are not directly involved in the protests). EU prices are also down 6% on last year. The current steer base price for beef is €3.45 per kg.
According to Beef Plan if the consumer spends €10 on beef, the retailer gets €5.10, the factory gets €2.90 and the farmer gets €2.
While it is hoped the talks will bring a resolution and prevent further lay-offs at factories the current protest environment is just the tip of the iceberg when we see what’s coming down the tracks for the farming community. When we throw Brexit, climate change, EU plans to import Argentinian beef, rural decline and other factors into the mix the future for the beef industry here is challenging to say the least.