Irish Farmers’ Association stage blockade at Lidl distribution centre in Cork
“We have 20 days to save €20 million.”
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has set up a blockade of a major retail distribution centre in Ireland for the second day running as it continues its protest over beef prices.
On Friday morning, members of the IFA set up a blockade outside a Lidl distribution centre in Charleville in Cork, following on from the blockade of an Aldi distribution centre in Naas on Thursday, a move described by the retailer as “short-sighted and not constructive”.
The blockades come on the same week of the first meeting of the government’s Beef Market Taskforce, with representative organisations including the IFA, the ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association), the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association) and the BPM (Beef Plan Movement) calling for an increase in beef prices.
Speaking about the protests in Cork on Friday, IFA Presidential candidate John Coughlan was critical of what he described as the listless attitude of the government and the lack of urgency in addressing the ever-widening price gap between what Irish beef farmers are being paid compared to their international equivalents.
Coughlan also said that remarks by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who expressed “sympathy” with protesting farmers on Thursday, were not good enough.
“All the parties to the talks, including the meat industry, are saying they want a deal,” Coughlan said.
“If so, why are we not all in a room right now looking to agree one? The lack of urgency is staggering. Farmers do not need a stop-start talking shop, they need action. The only people who benefit from delays are meat barons who are pocketing the additional margin which independent analysis shows is in the market.”
Coughlan added that a new dynamic was needed to inject urgency and momentum into the Taskforce and called on the Government to appoint a facilitator with a track record of deal-making to the process, citing former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern amongst the suitable candidates for the role.
“For us beef farmers, the Taskforce is the equivalent of national pay talks,” Coughlan said.
“The contrast in approach between the Taskforce and national pay talks could not be starker. With national pay talks, we have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude among the parties, with people not leaving the room until tangible progress is made. Yet this morning, instead of negotiating, farmers are protesting.
“It’s time to change the dynamic. I believe bringing in a facilitator with a track-record in deal making – someone like a Kieran Mulvey, Peter Cassells or Bertie Ahern – is now needed. We need to get in the room, stay in the room, maintain the tempo, and get a deal done.”
Coughlan claimed that Irish beef farmers have lost €60 million to date due to the meat industry’s failure to honour their commitments and that farmers will lose another €20 million by the end of the year if a price deal is not agreed.
“We have 20 days to save €20 million. Every day that passes without progress, farm family livelihoods worsen. We need a new dynamic, because where we are is clearly not working.”
In a statement to JOE on the protest on Friday morning, a Lidl spokesperson said: “At Lidl we appreciate the importance of regular and transparent communication with farming representatives and we understand the difficulties faced by many farmers. As recently as last week, Lidl management had constructive discussions with members of both the BPM and the IFA.
“We also know that our customers are hugely appreciative of quality Irish produce. For this reason, we are supportive of the work of the Beef Taskforce and hope they can make positive progress rapidly in the interest of all parties.”