As the saying goes: “When there’s an elephant in the room, you can’t pretend it isn’t there and just discuss the ants.”
As we went to press yesterday, the combined beef industry including farmers, processors, Bord Bia and Minister Creed, were sitting around the table in a bid to resolve the beef protests that have dominated the farming landscape for the past two weeks.
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There is no doubting that the protests intensified and grew stronger last week as beef farmers frustrated with their plight joined the picket lines in their droves.
The Beef Plan Movement has brought the factories to the negotiating table and that’s no mean feat for a loosely aligned group.
Finding a solution that will be enough to convince farmers to leave the factory gates is now the problem.
The majority of farmers protesting last week were there because of the current beef price, plain and simple.
They were not protesting about over-age cattle, movement restrictions or issues with the grid.
They were out in their thousands because of the poor prices they have received or were offered for their cattle.
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Remarkably though, the issue of beef prices was the elephant in the room at yesterday’s talks.
The Competition Authority has made it clear this subject must be off the table and wasn’t slow to fire a shot across the bows of the Beef Plan Movement last week over its protests.
IFA and ICSA highlighted over the weekend how the authority hasn’t been half as quick in their dealings with beef processors. And it’s difficult to argue with that.
Many farmers will also justifiably wonder why the Competition Authority hasn’t been as keen to have a go at the insurance industry – or why the EU Commission has had to come in and do their job for them on that front.
Whether the Competition Authority likes it or not, price was the main reason for the farmer protests. And it is only by dealing with the issue of beef prices that we will see an end to the protests.
Just how that can be achieved while price is off the table remains to be seen. This isn’t the first beef crisis meeting, and it’s unlikely to be the last.
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