16 October 2000
‘Just 1% of our beef is Irish’
By FWi staff
THE meat company at the centre of protests in Merthyr Tydfil has denied claims that it buys large amounts of beef from Ireland.
Eight men were arrested when farmers blockaded the St Merryn Meat cutting plant at Dowlais on Sunday evening (15 October).
Demonstrators claimed St Merryn has been processing large quantities of cheaper, imported beef in preference to the British product.
Frustrated British producers, still trying to recover from the BSE crisis, said beef offered to the company was placed on a waiting list.
British farmers have seen prices fall 7p/kg to 166.3p in the month up to 7 October, yet still found themselves undercut by Irish prices of 148.5p/kg.
But St Merryn Meat marketing director Phil Reed said Irish beef formed only 1% of the beef found in Merthyr Tydfil, and a similar percentage of the companys total beef requirements.
“We have long bought a small amount of Irish beef, and have never made any secret of this; its part of ongoing commercial agreements,” he said.
And in any case, as St Merryn operates its own slaughterhouses, it is in the companys interests to source cattle in the UK, he added.
“As a business operating our own slaughterhouses, its in our own interests to kill as much locally as possible, and thats what we try to do.”
Meanwhile, the National Beef Association has warned that more beef is coming across the Irish Sea, and called on supermarkets to back British beef.
NBA chairman Robert Robinson said: “We would be deeply unhappy if the multiples, who are continually emphasising their loyalty to British farm produce … reduced their purchasing levels of domestic beef by lifting their Irish orders.
He said this would deepen the income crisis in the sector.
A Merthyr Tydfil police spokeswoman said the eight men arrested on conspiracy to cause damage to the plant were still being questioned.