The Republic of Ireland's poultry producers picketed the Department of Defence in Dublin last week after a Northern Irish processor was given a contract to supply the Irish army with fresh chicken.

The 350,000 contract went to Crossgar Foods, of Seaforde, County Down, which submitted the lowest price of nine bidding companies. But Irish Farmers' Association deputy president Derek Deane complained that the processor was not accredited under the government-backed Bord Bia quality assurance scheme. 

"It's a body blow to an industry that provides 2,500 jobs that government departments are sourcing products outside the state."

There was particular criticism of defence minister Willie O'Dea, in whose Limerick constituency the Kantoher and Castlemahon poultry plants have closed, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs.