After marathon talks lasting over 30 hours, farm organisations have struck a deal with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) that should see the end of weeks of protests.
However, concern is growing in some areas that farmers will not be happy to accept the agreement because it does not guarantee an increase in price.
Instead it focuses on increasing bonuses, loosening specifications and targeting market transparency.
The deal is dependent on the conclusion of all protests and pickets outside factories.
The agreement was chaired by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his team in Agriculture House in Dublin and decided by Meat Industry Ireland, ICSA, Macra na Feirme, Independent Farmers Organisation of Ireland, ICMSA, Beef Plan Movement, IFA and INHFA.
The Irish Farmers Journal asked them for their reaction to the agreement.
Minister Michael Creed
“I hope the deal will stick,” the minister said.
“I want to acknowledge the Herculean effort made by everybody during talks.
“There were seven different farm organisations and each brought a different perspective to the room and all have now signed off on the deal.
“Selling the deal will require a collective effort from everyone, it will require leadership from all the farm organisations to get it across the line.”
When asked what’s in the deal for farmers, he said in the short term there are higher bonus payments but there is also a platform to build a better relationship for the future between factories and farmers.
Minister Creed at the IFJ Beef Summit. \ Dave Ruffles
He acknowledged that there’s a very difficult market for farmers selling cattle at the moment but urged them not to dismiss the deal out of hand and to work with the Department on it.
He acknowledged it doesn’t deliver a price increase but they had just approved a producer organisation and had delivered a €100m aid package from the EU.
He concluded by saying he would like to see picketers now stand down.
Meat Industry Ireland
“The agreed package contains significant positive financial initiatives by MII members, in areas of specifications, bonuses and supply chain transparency,” Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said.
This has been an extremely damaging episode
“The agreement requires that all protests and illegal blockades cease immediately so that normal processing can recommence, employees can return to work, farmers can sell their animals, and efforts can be made to rebuild customer confidence.
“This has been an extremely damaging episode for all stakeholders in the beef and sheep sectors. It has occurred at a time of significant and continuing challenges in the EU beef market. It is of particular concern given the closeness of Brexit and the major implications that a no-deal outcome presents for our sector.”
IFA president Joe Healy
“It was a long day, we got a document agreed on and now we need to go out and recommend it to farmers,” Healy said.
“It’s very important that farmers now get back to normal service and activities.
“We don’t underestimate the challenge of selling it to farmers at the gate.
“They are angry at the low prices they are being paid for beef.
“We can learn from the past and make sure that the new task force will not be a talking shop.”
IFA livestock chair Angus Woods
“I think we have to welcome the progress that has been made,” Woods said.
“It’s not a silver bullet but it’s a step in the right direction. The sector needs structural reform and this is the first step towards transparency and better regulation.”
ICSA president Edmund Phelan
“Perseverance and long hours have brokered this deal,” Phelan said.
“It won’t be an easy sell to protesters at the gates but there is more to this deal than price and we do recommend this to farmers.”
ICSA President Edmond Phelan, Caher, Fenor, Co Waterford./ Donal O' Leary
Beef Plan Movement co-chair Hugh Doyle
“In negotiations you never get everything you want,” Doyle said.
“For the first time all of the farm organisation have stood together.”
“We sat down in a room, we had unity leaving the room. That’s the first time in my memory that farmers were speaking with one voice.”
Hugh Doyle, Co Meath, asks a question at the Beef Summit, Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co Galway. / David Ruffles
Asked if the deal was enough, he said they spent 31 hours in a room without sleeping and that it was the best deal they could have achieved.
“We couldn’t negotiate on price so we negotiated on bonuses and specifications.
“There will be money there for farmers in this deal and on that basis Beef Plan Movement will recommend it.
“Now factories need to get beef out to hold on to customers so they can hold on to contracts.”
Alison De Vere Hunt of Independent Farmers Organisation of Ireland
“The deal was difficult to get through and we’ve to sell it to the people at the factory gates,” De Vere Hunt told the Irish Farmers Journal.
“I feel when farmers look at this deal they will see there are good measures in it. The 70-day residency minimum is now down to 60 and the four-movement rule is to be reviewed and so is the fifth quarter.
“For everybody’s sake it’s very important that people get off the picket lines.”
She repeated the point that people at the factory gates needed to look at the document and come off the picket lines.
“If they look at this I think they’ll be happy. Hopefully enough has been done,” she concluded.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack
Pat McCormack said the ICMSA was particularly welcoming of the 12c/kg bonus on O- and 4+ cattle and he said the establishment of the beef market task force must have as its starting point the delivery of adequate margins for the farmer primary-producer. McCormack said that for far too long, we have assumed that what was good for the wider agri sector was necessarily good for the farmer.
Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy
“Almost €24m of new money into the pockets of struggling beef farmers is worth supporting,” Duffy said.
“It has been a long and difficult series of talks over the past month. We particularly welcome the increases in bonus payments which will bring over 150,000 animals into bonus payment territory.”
Macra president Thomas Duffy on his dairy farm in Virginia, Co Cavan. \ Philip Doyle.
Duffy added “there are significant steps within the Programme of Reform which address issues of transparency and trust within the sector.
“The creation of the beef market task force, which it is hoped will provide leadership and ensure a viable future for the sector, economically, environmentally and sustainably, must be welcomed.”
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell
O’Donnell told the Irish Farmers Journal the organisations had worked hard to secure the deal.
“It’s important that farm organisations return to their members and get farmers to accept the deal,” O’Donnell said.
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