Belfast Telegraph

President hopeful for a deal in row over beef pricing

Michael D Higgins spoke on the opening day of the 88th National Ploughing Championships.

President Michael D Higgins at the National Ploughing Championships (Niall Carson/PA)
President Michael D Higgins at the National Ploughing Championships (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The President has said he is concerned over the vulnerability of farmers when dealing with retailers amid an ongoing row over beef pricing.

Protests have plagued the sector for weeks as farmers picketed the gates of meat producers over the price of beef, which 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.

An agreement was eventually reached between farmers and beef processors following 30 hours of talks, organised by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed over the weekend.

In his written speech at the opening day of the 88th National Ploughing Championships, President Michael D Higgins said he had become concerned by how farmers were being treated.

“I have for some time, and I remain, concerned at the vulnerability of primary producers in the face of a retailing environment that is increasingly concentrated and dominated by a small number who may be exercising unfair practices,” he said.

“(Practices) that exploit the vulnerability of producers with limited outlets and who can be the victims in the face of these tendencies, which distorts the relationship between producer and consumer, making sustainability difficult to be achieved.”

The current agreement reached was based upon increased bonuses for farmers and the dropping of any legal actions in exchange for an end to protests at factory gates.

When asked at a media event later if he was speaking directly to the farmers on the pickets, Mr Higgins said he was pleased about the greater amount of transparency now available to farmers and consumers when it comes to buying meat in Ireland.

Large crowds of people at the National Ploughing championships in Carlow (Niall Carson/PA)

“A great deal has been learned and I hoped as well that the public would be better informed and people would know what is behind the farmers’ wishes to know what they’re entitled to and what would be fair distribution between producer, processor, retailer and consumer,” he said.

“I want to be supportive to those trying to seek a resolution to all of this, a very good beginning has been made, and a good deal of effort has been put in and that is an achievement in itself, and well worth building on and supporting.

“It may not be the finished document that everyone wants, but if it is something which provides basis it’s well worth going forward.

“The emphasis should be on resolution now.

“I’m not interfering I’m just looking to see people move on to the next stage.”

The President also called on Irish consumers to question where their meat is coming from, and who is gaining profit from the production.

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar called for an end to the ongoing protests and blockades outside meat processing plants.

“The protests were successful in highlighting the issues affecting beef farmers, they did bring the industry to the table, but all that can be achieved from protests and blockades has now been achieved,” he said.

Tanaiste and former agriculture minister Simon Coveney issued an impassioned plea to farmers to end the blockades.

“I am saying this as Tanasite of the country; the continuation of this blockade is going to do things to this country that we as a Government are not going to be able to reverse and people need to think about that. I would rarely intervene in something like this as I am doing now if I did not feel as strongly as I did about it,” he added.



From Belfast Telegraph