Protesting Irish farmers, who closed down half the country's meat export plants for a day in a campaign for better prices, have been warned that they are threatening their lucrative UK market and damaging the industry. The Irish Meat Association called the campaign "misguided, misinformed and irresponsible", and chief executive John Smith warned it could result in the loss of existing contracts. Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh also expressed concern about the protests, at a time when Irish beef exports to Britain have doubled to more than 200,000 tonnes. But the 80,000-strong Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) are unrepentant. Its president, John Dillon, accused the meat plants of acting in unison to keep prices 13% lower. Initially, the farmers' protest hit six Anglo-Irish Beef Processors plants in the Goodman group, halting processing for a day. This week the protest was extended to 11 plants, including five owned by Dawn Meats. Two years ago, the IFA shut down the industry in a battle to win 90p a lb for their cattle, some 10p above current prices. The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association has proposed a beef price summit to try to negotiate a compromise. {{MARKET EDGE }}