Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has called on Minister Creed and Meat Industry Ireland to engage urgently with farm organisations to resolve the critical situation that beef farmers are in. Carthy made his remarks as nationwide protests by the Beef Plan Movement intensify, bringing many processing factories to a halt. Over 20 demonstrations have taken place.
Matt Carthy, who has visited protesting farmers in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan; Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo and Clones, Co. Monaghan, said:
“The fact that farmers, during the busy Summer period, have gathered in such large numbers at sites across the state is just the most recent signal that they are at breaking point. As the protests enter their second week it is unbelievable and unacceptable that neither the Minister for Agriculture nor Meat Industry Ireland have made any real effort to engage with the farmers.
“The farmers I have spoken with are very clear that they cannot afford to walk away from these protests unless they receive firm commitments that measures will be put in place to address the inequalities that underpin the beef sector in Ireland today. I commend the farmers for taking a stand and also those hauliers and veterinarians who have demonstrated solidarity by not crossing the picket.
“Throughout recent years farmers have articulated the crisis they are in. Rather than enacting measures to address that crisis the Irish government and the European Commission have overseen its exacerbation. The free rein that has been given to the factories and retailers to manipulate the market position of farmers has been such that the emergence of these types of protest has come as no surprise.
“Farmers are not asking for anything radical, they are simply requesting that they receive a fair price for their product and a guarantee that they will be paid more than their cost of production. The current situation whereby processors receive 50% more from an animal that they keep for 3 days than a farmer that raised and fed the animal for 2 years is not tenable and is unfair by any standard.
“The beef farmers share of the supermarket sale price amounts to just 20%, is it any wonder that farmers are at the constant brink of bankruptcy. At €8,300, cattle rearing incomes amount to around a third of what is considered the living wage. That the European Commission and the Irish government know this and yet proceed to propose the flooding of the EU market with cheap Brazilian imported beef is further evidence that they are intent on allowing the Irish family farm to be consigned to history.
“I call on Meat Industry Ireland to drop its preconditions to talks and come to an agreement with the farmers that offers them a viable future.
“The silence from the Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, since the Beef Plan protests began, has been deafening. He cannot play the role of the detached observer – the government has a role to intervene to resolve this dispute as a matter of urgency and Minister Creed has a responsibility to personally intervene.
“For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to stand with farmers on the picket line for as long as it takes because we understand that without our family farmers rural Ireland as we know it will not survive”.