15 March 2002

Irish meat plants in dispute over prices

IRISH meat exports to the UK, currently running at 200,000t/year, could be hit if a dispute over prices between producers and processors in the Irish Republic is not resolved soon.

In a boycott backed by the Irish Farmers Association, livestock producers are refusing to supply the countrys meat plants unless they are guaranteed minimum prices of k2.66/kg (£1.84/kg) for quality animals and k2.52/kg (£1.56/kg) for lower grade cattle.

According to the IFA, the factories have cut prices by over 10% at a time when "there is an increased demand for Irish product in Britain and on the Continent".

The Irish Meat Association, representing processors, counters that international demand for beef is slow, especially in Britain, where it claims Argentinian imports are particularly strong.

Spokesman John Smith said the slaughter lines in some factories had now been closed because they could not afford to pay the prices Irish producers are demanding.

IFA officials and executives of the major processing companies, including the Larry Goodman-owned AIBP, Kepak and Dawn Meats, failed to resolve the dispute at a special meeting in Dublin this week (Monday).

Following that meeting, Derek Deane, chairman of the IFAs livestock committee, said over one-third of the 25 plants were prepared to pay the minimum prices, and he expected the others to follow suit shortly.

&#8226 Early last year, in a prolonged dispute over prices, the 100,000-strong IFA organised a blockade of the plants, effectively closing down the whole processing industry. &#42