By Kieran O’Mahony and
BEEF farmers outside ABP in Bandon said they were going to continue their protest, despite a blockade being lifted at a Dawn Meats plant in Co Meath on Wednesday.
But one local farmer, who did not wish to be named, told The Southern Star that whatever happens next, the base price for beef still needs to be addressed.
The far-reaching impact of the protest was evident this week on supermarket shelves, while the restaurant sector also expressed concern over sourcing Irish beef.
Meanwhile, Carbery suppliers who are already concerned about potentially not having a market to sell their calves this season, got a further blow with a 1c drop (per litre) in milk prices.
Carbery Group said they made the decision as a result of on-going weakness in the dairy markets, particularly around cheese and butter.
The 255 workers who were laid off last week at the ABP processing plant in Bandon are still out of work. A farmer who is among the group of protestors at the plant said it was ‘terrible’ to see the workers laid off, but added: ‘We’re considered the factories’ customers but, in reality, they are our customers, because we have the raw materials. If we shut down and stop producing beef there won’t be a meat industry.’
He added that the protestors have no issues with the workers but ‘there are heifers that should have been killed six to seven weeks ago and they’re gone overfat so we’ll be losing out on the price of them and we’re losing out too.’
He continued: ‘If everyone came and stood up together, this whole thing would have been sorted long ago. It’s small towns and villages that depend on the circulation of money and what they’re doing to the beef industry means they have weakened the link and the link will break.’
Several of the picketing farmers The Southern Star spoke to had high praise for the people of Bandon for showing solidarity with them with people who were dropping up food and tea to them.
Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, who visited the protestors in Bandon last week, said the situation is now at ‘crisis point.’
‘The price the farmers are getting is unsustainable and they are on their knees. It’s crucial that it is sorted as soon as possible as there is an awful lot at stake,’ she said.
‘I’m also very conscious of the people who have temporarily lost their jobs and this is having a domino effect on the economy of Bandon.’
Fianna Fáil raised a motion of the downward spiral in beef prices in the Dáil on Wednesday afternoon.
In an open letter to protesting famers that Minister Creed shared on Twitter, he described the deal on the table as a ‘compromise.’
‘Nobody got everything they wanted. Everyone had to give something. It was hard fought … I ask you to find some time to go through it line by line to take in its full impact.’
He added: ‘Many of you are simply looking for a price increase. Please understand that this is something that we could not legally discuss. But now farmers have an opportunity to stand together and agree prices through the establishment of Producer Organisations. Ireland’s first recognised PO was approved last week. This can strengthen your hand going forward. If you are of the view that you have no future in beef farming anyway – please consider those who wish to keep going.’
Meanwhile, in a more positive step, knackeries have reopened after talks between the Animal Collectors Association (ACA) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
A row had shut down the facilities and left famers unsure what to do in the case of fallen animals.
A statement from the Department said: ‘Following intensive discussions, agreement has been reached that enables the collection of fallen animals. Continued animal collection will be contingent on written correspondence from DAFM to ACA on the agreement reached at the meeting. Further discussions between DAFM and ACA are planned to progress issues relating to supports for the animal collection service.’