Approximately 98% of the 80 IFA farmers who supply chickens to Carton Brothers attended a meeting on Monday night in the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan. The farmers, most of whom are based in Co Cavan and Co Monaghan, were there to discuss their legal rights in relation to a dispute between themselves and Carton Brothers, whom the farmers say pay a very poor price compared with other major poultry processors.

Due to this price differential (allegedly around 10c/bird less than other processors) the farmers in the IFA group, which includes IFA National Poultry Committee chairman Nigel Renaghan, have invoked their right not to grow the seventh batch of chickens.

Speaking after the meeting, Renaghan said the farmers involved want a resolution to the dispute, but they wish to be “treated with respect and are not going to roll over on the issue”.

He said all the farmers who attended the meeting on Monday night were “unanimous” in looking for increased margins for their efforts. “Right now, at the price they’re being paid by Cartons, growing the seventh batch is just not economically viable.”

Renaghan warned that were the strike to continue, there would be 650,000 fewer chickens on Irish retail shelves in the next 35 days.

Legal rights

The meeting also shed light on the legal rights of the farmers involved in the dispute, by addressing the legal letters sent to the farmers by Carton Brothers telling them a court injunction would be brought against them if they persisted in their actions.

“The IFA solicitor is drafting a letter to Cartons as we speak,” Renaghan said. “The solicitor will be responding to the legal action threatened by Carton, telling them they are outside of their rights to hang this legal threat over farmers’ heads.”

Carton Brothers has yet to contact Renaghan in his capacity as IFA National Poultry Committee chairman in relation to this issue and the company could not as yet be contacted by the Irish Farmers Journal.

It is understood, however, that an employee of Carton Brothers has contacted one of the chairmen of the poultry growers group, saying the organisation would welcome a meeting with the farmers.

Renaghan reiterated that he too would welcome a meeting with Cartons if it was organised.

However, he stressed that times are too difficult for poultry growers to allow the dispute to go unresolved.

“[Minister for Agriculture] Simon Coveney did great work in getting substantive funding for poultry farmers under TAMS II [Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme]. But that only funds 40% of the money farmers invest in their operations. Where is the other 60% going to come from if poultry growers are being paid such a low price as 38.8c a chicken?”