Irish poultry growers were protesting outside the Ministry of Defence building in Dublin yesterday to force it to drop its controversial decision to procure imported chicken for the forces.

Minister Willie O’Dea has agreed to meet with representatives from the group to address the government’s policy of sourcing chicken for the defence forces from a non Bord Bia assured processor outside the Republic.

IFA deputy president Derek Deane said: “Although we appreciate the minister meeting us on this matter, he and the other government ministers must take immediate action to redress this situation and defend Irish jobs.

“The supplier for the €350,000 contract apparently does not contribute anything to the Irish economy. What is even more concerning is the business is not accredited under the government’s own Bord Bia quality assurance scheme and, as it is involved in secondary processing only, the company could be sourcing chickens from anywhere.”

He said: “It is a major body blow to all farmers that government departments are not supporting the Irish economy by purchasing foreign products.

“Minister O’Dea should be acutely aware of the impact on poultry farmers in his own county of Limerick who have lost their livelihoods with the closure of Kantoher and Castlemahon Poultry Products in the last number of years.

These factories closed down because of the devastating effects that imported chicken meat has had on the whole Irish poultry sector over the last five years.

“I am aghast that he has learned nothing from this experience. Is he waiting for the whole Irish industry to close down?”

IFA poultry chairman Ned Morrissey added that this recent decision not to support indigenous Irish business shows that the Irish government and its officials are out of touch with the difficulties facing the poultry sector.

“How can we expect retailers and food companies to give shelf space to Irish produce if our own government does not lead by example and support quality-assured Irish product? This simply would not happen in other EU countries.”