Belfast Telegraph

Cattle farmers blockade Dublin city centre as beef price row continues

Protesters gathered along Stephen’s Green to highlight the plight of farming families who say they are struggling to survive.

Farmers block traffic in St Stephens Green, Dublin, in protest at beef prices (Niall Carson/PA)
Farmers block traffic in St Stephens Green, Dublin, in protest at beef prices (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Cattle farmers have shut off parts of Dublin city centre in an ongoing row over the price of beef.

Around 30 tractors and more than 50 farmers gathered along Stephen’s Green on Tuesday, in front of the historic Shelbourne Hotel, to highlight the plight of farming families who representatives claim are facing an anxious Christmas.

The row has been going on for months, with the price of beef at its lowest in years and many farmers saying they are struggling to survive and may be forced out of business without Government intervention.

The Bord Bia price index shows Irish prices for beef are now 50c/kg behind UK prices, and 25c/kg behind European prices.

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Farmers block traffic in St Stephens Green in Dublin in protest at beef prices (Niall Carson/PA)

Protests at the gates of meat processing plants across the country have ended in arrests and injuries, while a Chinese delegation was prevented from entering certain sites for inspections during the summer.

This month, a number of protests have been held outside Aldi and Lidl distribution centres, as Agriculture Minister Michael Creed comes under increased pressure to tackle the issue.

Farmers taking part in Wednesday’s protest said they were very aware of the time of year, and took special care to make sure bus and taxi lanes were not impeded.

They also took a smaller number of tractors than in previous protests to ensure less disruption to shoppers and businesses.

Tom Burke, a farmer from South Wicklow, said farming families are heading into a worrying Christmas period.

“Next year there won’t even be enough men to call a protest, because they’ll simply be out of business,” he said.

“If it goes over the Christmas into the new year, that’s another month’s holdiay without a pay rise for the farmer.

“We want an immediate price rise.

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The protesters listed their demands for Agriculture Minister Michael Creed (Niall Carson/PA)

“A lot of these men don’t see any Santy Claus coming for this price rise, the same as Northern Ireland or England or Europe.

“Look at the jeeps or tractors here – there’s nothing new, no 2019 registrations, it’s all early 2000s, 1996 or 1997. Where is the money? It’s not here.

“It’s the price that concerns them and that’s why they’re standing out here today.”

The farmers’ group released a statement saying they were very “frustrated with the lack of action by our current Government to support an industry in distress”.

A letter was handed to Mr Creed, containing five demands:

– An immediate price increase in line with Teagasc research minimum base price of 4.17 euro/kg;
– Convening of an emergency meeting of the Beef Market Task Force;
– Removal of 30-, 24- and 16-month age limits;
– Removal of the 60-day residency rule; and
– Removal of the four-movement rule (which dictates that any animal taken for slaughter with more than four changes of ownership on its card will not qualify for the QAS bonus).

Michael Fitzpatrick, a farmer from Templemore, said the protest message was aimed directly at the minister.

“We need the taskforce to be called in immediately,” he said.

“If you get into a taxi, who sets the price? The taxi regulator – so the minister is wrong when he says he can’t set the price.

“If he does put in a regulator to set the price of beef, the beef marketing task force was supposed to do that.

“They put the name on it – if you’re talking about marketing anywhere in the world, you have to talk about money, that’s what the name of the committee is.”

PA

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