Irish sheep farmers have called a truce in their battle against meat plants after winning a new baseline price for spring lamb.
But the Irish Farmers’ Association, which organised the protest action that closed down much of the sector for almost a week, has warned that the campaign will be resumed if processors fail to maintain the agreed price of €4.75/kg.
Pickets have been withdrawn and producers are supplying lamb again, a decision welcomed by Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan, who was alarmed at the potential damage to Ireland’s lucrative French trade.
The increasingly bitter dispute centred on IFA claims that processors were deliberately collapsing spring lamb prices. Officials contrasted the €3.92/kg offered by Irish plants with a French price of €4.61/kg and €4.60 in the UK.
“These figures mean that Irish farmers are getting €14 per lamb less than their counterparts in France and the UK,” said IFA sheep committee chairman Laurence Fallon. “Irish factories are either grossly inefficient or are taking massively excessive margins.”
Meat Industry Ireland, representing the processors, insisted that international markets determined the prices paid to farmers, and that the markets were currently weak. Spokesman Cormac Healy claimed the protest campaign had cost plants and producers at least €5m a day. “Disrupting the trade by closing down plants, which means we cannot service our customers, does not make sense,” he said.
Anthony Garvey