Belfast Telegraph

Minister to arrange new talks over beef pricing

Michael Creed confirmed discussions between all parties will start on Monday.

(Dairymaster/PA)
(Dairymaster/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Minister for Agriculture says he will facilitate new talks to resolve the stalemate over beef pricing.

Michael Creed confirmed on Thursday morning that the discussions between all parties will start on Monday.

The price of beef is at its lowest in years, with many farmers claiming they are struggling to survive and will be forced out of business without Government intervention.

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

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Protesters outside the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh (Brian Lawless/PA)

The dispute reached tipping point last week when a number of processors acquired court orders against farmers on picket lines.

Mr Creed repeated in media interviews that the dispute would “not be solved in the courts”.

The group representing the farmers, Beef Plan Movement, has presented 13 points of contention that need to be addressed to make beef farming sustainable and profitable for farmers.

These include the use of an upper age limit to influence the price offered for steers, heifers and young bulls, a carcass weights threshold for cattle and sheep being changed without reasonable notice, and excessive trim being taken from carcasses.

It is critically important for the future of the sector that stakeholders engage in a spirit of compromise to resolve a dispute that has the potential to inflict long-term damage on the sector if it continues Michael Creed

Meat Industry Ireland, the group representing meat processors, said it would not return to the negotiating table until pickets had been suspended, but would defer legal proceedings if talks were reconvened.

Mr Creed said: “There has been significant engagement with stakeholders throughout the duration of this dispute and I believe that there is now a basis for the renewal of talks between the parties.

“We have reached a point where it is critically important for the future of the sector that stakeholders engage in a spirit of compromise to resolve a dispute that has the potential to inflict long-term damage on the sector if it continues.

“It is clear that this can only happen if processors and protesters step back from court proceedings and illegal blockades, in order to allow space for meaningful talks to proceed.”

He confirmed his department would be in touch with stakeholders during the day to make arrangements for the talks.

PA

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