DESCRIBING a predicament people are in as being between a rock and a hard place is one that can certainly apply to the truly dire situation that Irish beef farmers find themselves in at the moment with their livelihoods at stake. They are being hit from all sides, what with climate change activists calling for a massive reduction in meat production and the culling of a significant portion of the national herd, through to the huge drop in prices for their animals, to the Mercosur deal, which will see cheaper imports of beef – with not as high a provenance – being allowed into the European Union from four South American countries when the EU market is already over-supplied with beef.
Last week and this, West Cork farmers, angry at the drastic fall in beef prices, have been protesting about it outside the ABP meat plant in Bandon and similar protests have been taking place at other such facilities. With the price of beef cattle having dropped from over €4 per kilogramme to around the €3.50 mark, the farmers rearing them say they are losing €150 to €200 per animal and that this is not sustainable.
The compensation they are due from the €100m BEAM (Beef Emergency Age Measure), introduced to offset losses caused by the prospect of Brexit, is regarded by them as far from adequate, especially given that there was a further drop of 30c per kg since it was first announced in the spring. The protests are led by the Beef Plan Movement, which is understandably more confrontational in its approach than the more established farming organisations given the predicament drystock farmers find themselves in now.
They continued their protests to try to force the hand of Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to intervene in the dispute between the farmers and the factories. The latter are being hit by short supplies from farmers, so the impasse needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.
Thankfully, the Minister's weekend appeal to all sides to enter talks to resolve the issues has been heeded, with the Beef Plan Movement suspending its protests outside meat factories and the owners of these withdrawaing their threats of legal action against the farmers involved. The talks, under an independent chairman, are due to start on Monday, August 12th.