Irish beef dispute sees settlement

28 January 2000

Irish beef dispute sees settlement

THE Irish government has agreed that prices paid by individual meat plants will be published on a weekly basis as part of the settlement of the Irish beef dispute.

The government agreed to the move after a deal which ended the 14-day blockade of Irish meat plants (see News, Jan 21).

Under the deal, abattoirs conceded to Irish Farmers Association demands for higher beef prices and the withdrawal of a sharp rise in vet inspection costs

Slaughterers will lift beef prices from around 82p/lb (£1.80/kg) to 90p/lb (£1.98/kg)for O-grade meat and scrap attempts by plants to pass on to farmers an increase in veterinary charges from £3 to £4.23 an animal.

Former IFA president Tom Parlon said: "The beef sector must now go forward with both sides on an equal footing and a realisation that farmers must get a fair price for cattle.

"We have now moved to a new era of open and transparent pricing for cattle which will remove some of the secrecy about prices in this trade."

While abattoir inspection charges sparked the dispute, it provided an outlet for long-term frustration at poor cattle prices. The IFA had accused meat processors of operating as a cartel to keep prices artificially low.

The 85,000-strong IFA, which has annual assets of £4m was hit with a £400,000 fine for refusing to lift the blockade, but a spokesman said this was a price worth paying for victory.

When the High Court threatened additional daily fines of £500,000, most of the IFA ruling council resigned and the union withdrew from picket lines.

Despite union denials at the time, this was widely seen as a strategy to avoid liability for fines, and to allow the blockade to continue while officials continued to co-ordinate events behind the scenes.

It is believed Mr Parlon and his deputy and vice-presidents will be re-elected unopposed.

The IFA spokesman said: "Clearly if farmers stand together they can still exert a big influence. Farmers need to retain a certain dignity and control of the products they produce, and not merely be passive price takers."

The Irish Meat Association declined to comment.

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