As many as a hundred farmers are continuing their protests outside the Kepak processing plant in Athleague, despite the imposition of permanent injunctions by processors. A deputation of Chinese inspectors visiting the Kepak plant did not proceed with their planned inspection of the plant on Monday afternoon.
There were angry exchanges between protestors and two lorries attempting to make a delivery to the plant on Saturday, with Gardai called to the scene. However, farmers said they were “prepared to eat their Christmas turkey on protest” unless their demands were met.
One of the protesting farmers, claimed members of the Beef Plan movement “were duped into a meeting with processors. Farmers aren’t budging unless everything is agreed. We will achieve our aims by being out on protest.
“I owe money myself but I can’t pay my suppliers without getting a fair price. Farmers are all in the same boat – we are all fighting for one thing. Our protests have more to do that with beef – it’s the survival of rural Ireland,” he stressed.
He added that farmers were receiving a lot of support and accused lorry drivers attempting to pass pickets “of making a living on farmers misfortune. But the protest is staying in place unless we have a result.”
The farmer went on to say that a result would be the abolition of the 30 month and four-movement rules, governing the supply and movement of cattle. “Prices need to be dictated by the market – whatever the retail price is, we (farmers) need that,” he stressed.
Conal Tiernan of the local branch of the Beef Plan group said his members were abiding by the injunctions in place at the Kepak plant. He said he was “hopeful” talks would resume this week involving Meat Ireland and supermarkets and said his group “had the goodwill of 90% of farmers”.
Spokesperson for Ireland’s Future, a new umbrella organisation representing the concerns of rural communities, Gerry Loftus said farmers “demand the Government put in place a farmer controlled offal processing plant, followed by farmer-owned, farmer run, meat processing plants. Legislation is required to change competition law.
Meanwhile, local Independent Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice has called for the chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture, Deputy Pat Deering, to arrange a meeting of the committee “as soon as possible”.