The beef situation had been a long-term issue with farmers protesting outside processing plants around the country over what they feel is a massive discrepancy between the prices they receive and the prices paid by consumers in shops.
The second round of talks was hindered by the withdrawal of trade body Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the lack of representation from the retail side.
MII pulled out due to the refusal of protesters to step back from blockading during talks despite its members agreeing to defer legal action. It warned that continued illegal blockading has placed factory employees in peril of layoffs and prevented beef farmers from having their factory ready cattle processed and that the blockades have put in jeopardy national and international customers of Irish beef. In a statement earlier this week, it claimed that 3,000 employees of its members have been temporarily laid off due to the protests.
Retailers on the other hand have been quiet during the affair, however that may change when it starts to hit supply. Irish state broadcaster RTE reported that Aldi has been forced to relabel beef products as ‘processed in the UK’.
An Aldi statement said: “In light of industry-wide availability issues, to ensure we have a full range of fresh beef and pork products for our customers, some of our Irish beef and pork suppliers have processed Irish beef and pork at their UK-based processing facilities, all of which are Quality Assured by Bord Bia.”
The disruption to the overall meat industry is not new. Earlier this month, a Chinese delegation visit had to be shifted due to protests outside the plant. The group had been scheduled to carry out inspections at a number of factories with a view to increasing exports to the Chinese market and the visit had to rearranged. A spokesman for Kepak told the Irish Times that this was an “massive own goal” and warned that “the cost of the failure to get this site Chinese export approved will be primarily borne by west of Ireland farmers for many years”.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has also warned that the protests are now hurting the lamb trade. IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said they are having a significant impact on the lamb kill.
“Farmers with finished lambs for sale are very concerned as they are unable to move lambs,” he explained. “Lambs are going over fat and overweight.”
Dennehy urged as solution to be found quickly but also highlighted the negative impact on the mart trade in parts of the country.
The impact on supply may have been the catalyst for a third round of beef talks that took place last weekend (14 September) by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed. For the outcome of those talks, click here.