Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has stepped up the pressure on those involved in the beef dispute this week, calling on meat processors to withdraw legal action and for protests by farmers to be halted.
The Minister’s call comes following the decision by protesting farmers at the Kepak plant in Athleague to withdraw their picket following a day-long discussion with management at the plant on Tuesday. It is understood that part of the agreement to withdraw the picket was that all meat would be sourced from local farmers.
The decision to withdraw the picket was taken to allow a delegation from China to conduct an on-site audit at the plant. The audit was part of Ireland’s application for China to accept sheep meat.
This represented a temporary thaw in the dispute, as farmers returned to the plant on Wednesday afternoon. They have vowed to remain in place until talks are complete.
Farmers who were present at the picket on Tuesday ahead of the decision to allow the visiting Chinese delegation to enter Kepak, said they were determined to continue with protests until meaningful talks about prices could take place.
One farmer at Tuesday’s picket said Meat Industry Ireland had said they were “willing to discuss everything except price” at recent talks but farmers present said that there will be no meaningful progress until prices are discussed.