Meat Industry Ireland (MII) must be prepared to step up to the mark and engage in meaningful negotiations with farmers without any preconditions, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Commenting on the peaceful protests which have been ongoing for the past number of days, Fitzmaurice said: “Over the last couple of evenings I have visited the peaceful protests organised by farmers in Athleague and Ballinasloe.

“It has been heartening to see that the number of supporters has been growing day-by-day. But, alas, it seems as if MII doesn’t wish to recognise the level of frustration out there among farmers.

“I believe MII has to be willing to step up to the mark and into talks with the Beef Plan Movement with no pre-conditions in order to resolve these issues.

“As it stands, the meat factories don’t seem to be concerned that farmers are under severe pressure, both financially and mentally, due to the prices on offer. It is unsustainable for farmers to continue to try and persevere with conditions the way they are.

“It is also notable the amount of sheep from outside the Republic of Ireland that are being transported to factories here to be slaughtered. Farmers need to understand that the more livestock that comes in from outside, the easier it will be for factories to maintain prices at low levels by citing a more than adequate supply.”

Sustainable living

Continuing, the Roscommon-Galway TD noted that “sweetheart” deals continue to be offered to farmers by the factories in an effort to source livestock.

“In fairness to a lot of farmers, it has been heartening to observe and take part in the peaceful protests and to see other farmers turning around and going home, rather than crossing the picket line in solidarity with their fellow farmers.

“The reality of it all is that in the next few years – if prices do no improve to a sustainable level for farmers – a lot of these factories will end up closing because the livestock won’t be in the country. Farmers will not persevere in a loss-making exercise for much longer,” he said.

Additionally, Fitzmaurice noted that nobody is asking the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to become involved in the pricing of cattle or sheep.

But the independent TD did not call on the minister to support the peaceful protesters and to assist with negotiations between the Beef Plan Movement and MII.

He said: “It is ferociously important that Minister Creed steps up to the mark. We need to ask ourselves why Ireland needs to import any beef, considering the vast majority of what we produce is exported? The same is true for the sheep sector, with reports of lambs travelling from Northern Ireland and Scotland to factories in the Republic of Ireland to be slaughtered.

“Only for it’s not funny, what’s going on would nearly make you laugh. Farmers have a right to earn a sustainable living for rearing quality livestock. If this is not achieved, then the whole of rural Ireland will suffer.

“Rural Ireland has taken a few knocks of late, with the situation regarding Bord na Mona, the challenges presented by climate change and the struggles farmers have had to endure – especially in the last 12 months or so – being the key ones.

“It is true to say that there are a lot of headwinds, particularly Brexit, putting pressure on prices. But when you look at the share of the spoils of what the shopper spends, the farmer is left scrapping the barrell for what is left – despite rearing the animal for months.

“Lets hope that common sense prevails and that MII steps up to the mark as part of meaningful and constructive negotiations.

“Otherwise, farmers will be driven from the land and vast feedlots will take over from family farms dotted throughout the countryside. Resolutions are what are required,” he concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice TD – 086-1914565

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