Talks aimed at ending the ongoing impasse between beef farmers and producers will get underway tomorrow morning, as retailers moved to assure customers there will be no shortages of Irish product on supermarket shelves.
Farming organisations will meet with processors’ representatives Meat Industry Ireland in talks convened by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who said an “urgent solution” was required to the dispute over the price paid to farmers for cattle and other conditions.
“Now is the time for people to take a step back from entrenched positions and to take a positive approach towards resolving their differences,” Mr Creed said.
“I expect all sides to recognise the urgency of the current situation, and to enter talks in good faith and with a firm intention to reach agreement.”
MII has agreed to Mr Creed’s request that beef slaughtering operations will remain suspended in blockaded plants during the talks, but said existing limited stocks of beef must be allowed free movement in and out of meat plants: “This is critical to avoiding further loss of domestic and export customers for Irish beef which would be to the long-term detriment of the sector.”
The Irish Farmers’ Association has put the onus on both the Minister and MII to table proposals to appease their members.
IFA president, Joe Healy, said: “We can’t afford to spend any time on posturing and game playing. We need to get this solved this weekend. IFA has detailed proposals which were put forward by our National Livestock Committee and agreed at our National Council this week.”
Meanwhile, retailers Tesco and Lidl issued reassurances over its supply of beef following Aldi’s announcement that it has started stocking UK-processed beef to meet demand.
Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, had confirmed that the State agency recently approved a beef plant in Northern Ireland, run by Dawn Meats, to process cattle raised in the Republic.
“Clearly we would love all of the value all of the time to be captured in Ireland but that’s not possible with the current impasse,” she told RTÉ’s News at One.
Asked if there is a possibility of Irish shops running out of Irish beef, Ms McCarthy said she does not know: “It’s a finite issue and stocks could run out and it would be an awful shame for consumers not to have the option of buying Quality Assured Irish beef and we hope that never happens.”
However, a spokesperson for Tesco told the Irish Examiner that it “has no plans to process Irish beef in the UK for our customers here in Ireland”.
“We continue to source 100% of our Tesco brand fresh beef from Irish suppliers and this has not changed. All of the Tesco fresh pork, lamb and chicken is 100% Irish. We continue to provide our customers with a wide range of Irish meat products,” the spokesperson said.
Lidl said it is not experiencing any shortage of fresh beef products at present: “We remain committed to our Irish supply base, supporting local farmers and providing Irish consumers with the best quality beef. We are hopeful of a swift resolution to this issue.”