BY BRIAN MOORE
‘WE’RE here until this is sorted out, we’re not going anywhere, we’ve no choice.’
Farmers at the picket line outside the ABP meat processing plant in Bandon have told The Southern Star that they will not permit cattle deliveries into or beef out of the factory until their demand for an increase in the price for their beef is met.
However, at a meeting on Sunday night, over 200 West Cork farmers voted not to disrupt the visit of a Chinese delegation to the factory on Monday last.‘We don’t want to see any new business stopped,’ one farmer said.
‘We did not disrupt the Chinese and also we allowed over 250 cattle into the plant so that they could see the normal day-to-day operations, but that’s it; from now on, nothing is going in or coming out.’
Another farmer, at the picket line, said that he was happy to see more people were coming to join the protest, but that he feels the farming organisations could be doing more for beef farmers.
‘I think that the farming organisations, as a whole, have not done enough for the beef farmers. Here at the protest, the momentum has picked up, we have more people here now and not just beef farmers.
‘There are dairy farmers here to support us as well as truck drivers and others. We are all here because we have no other choice; we can’t survive the way things are.’
Deputy Michael Collins, who chaired Sunday’s meeting, said that the protestors have been forced away from the families and their farms to fight for their livelihoods.
‘The farmers here are from communities across West Cork and beyond,’ Deputy Collins said.‘They are not able to survive and the Minister for Agricultural must intervene and bring together all sides to sort this out and ensure that farming families have a future in rural Ireland.’
However, one farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, has called on the local communities to realise that, without the money generated by their beef farmers, the local economy will suffer badly.
‘The processors and the supermarkets are making money and the farmer is left with nothing. I’m here because, as things stand, there is not future for my farm or my family the way things are at the moment. We are barely hanging on. ‘All I’m doing is paying bills. This is no life for any of my children and our community will suffer as well, if the farmer has no money to spend at the local shop, or the co-op, or for the local contractor, then the whole community is going to be in trouble.’
Meanwhile, as the protests continue, IFA president Joe Healy has called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to establish a statutory Commission of Investigation into the beef sector to establish processor and retailer margins along the supply chain.
Mr Healy said the there must be ‘full transparency and the price along the chain must be an essential element of the investigation’ and that with the statutory powers of a Commission of Investigation, if the government moved on this, it should be able establish answers to these questions relatively quickly. Farmers are entitled to know the truth about who is making what from their cattle in the beef supply chain.’
However, back at the ABP plant in Bandon, the farmers on the picket line are determined that they will not leave until the price they received for their beef is increased.
‘As it stands now, I have no future in beef farming,’ one protester said, as he joined his fellow West Cork farmers.