Irish farmers have suspended their protests outside more than 20 meat processing plants as talks get underway to find a solution to the current beef crisis.
Irish farm minister Michael Creed announced on Friday night (9 Aug) that Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and representatives of the Beef Plan Movement Group had agreed to talks, led by an independent chairperson, which will start this afternoon (12 August).
Mr Creed intervened in the beef price row late last week after it emerged meat plants had threatened legal action against the protesters, with MII claiming that the pickets were causing significant damage to the industry.
Farm leaders are warning that confidence in the beef sector is at an all-time low, with current beef prices well below the cost of production.
The protesters, led by the Beef Plan Movement Group, have been manning the gates at plants nationwide and encouraging their fellow farmers to hold cattle back from slaughter until beef prices rise.
But meat plant representatives have said the action has hit beef kill numbers, running the risk of plants losing customers and contracts, and forcing them to temporarily lay off workers.
It has been agreed that all protests and legal proceedings will be suspended until the talks have been concluded.
The meeting is due to involve representatives from MII, the Beef Plan Movement Group, other farm organisations and the Department for Agriculture.
Desperate situation for farmers
The Irish Farmers Association said MII had been wrong to try to resolve the dispute by legal means, claiming that it showed contempt for their farmer suppliers.
“The current dispute is a product of the desperate situation beef farmers find themselves in. “Threatening legal action just shows how out of touch with reality MII is.”
AHDB said it was too early to tell whether the protests had affected the amount of Irish beef imported into the UK over the past fortnight, as the trade figures for the affected period would not be available for some weeks.