Irish beef farmers threaten new blockades

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

IRISH beef producers are threatening to start blockading meat plants again, following a downturn in the price for their livestock.

The suggestion was made by Irish Farmers Association president Tom Parlon, who said farmers were “at boiling point” as cattle prices slipped below Ir80p/lb (UK1.38/kg).

Three factors are at play, according to Bord Bia economist Padraig Brennan. “The last two weeks have seen cattle throughput rise to about 38,000 or 39,000 a week.”

There has also been a significant drop in hide values and the weather has hit beef demand.

But the IFA has accused the meat plants of “working in unison to pull back prices”. Mr Parlon said farmers were losing between Ir60 (UK47) and Ir100 (UK79) a head.

But Irish Meat Association chief executive John Smith denied there was any collusion going on, insisting the meat factories could only “pay what the market delivers”.

Threats of a repeat of the January 2000 cattle price campaign are not being taken lightly, however.

On that occasion, farmers brought the countrys entire beef production to a standstill and, even though the dispute ended in substantial fines for the IFA for illegal picketing, it did achieve a significant price increase for farmers.

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