Roundtable talks aimed at resolving a major dispute between beef farmers and processing factories over prices began in the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday morning.
The taskforce is chaired by former department secretary general Michael Dowling and began at 9am. The taskforce was agreed to be set up to work towards reforms in the beef sector as part of previous negotiations aimed at ending farmer protests at meat factories around the country.
Last week farmers blockaded Dublin city centre as part of the ongoing protest over the lack of progress on demanded reforms in the sector and improvements in beef prices for farmers.
The beef taskforce talks had been due to begin in October, but the initial meeting failed to go ahead following protests by farmers over the fact injunctions remained in place against two farmers who had blockaded processing factories.
The country-wide protests blocking the entrances of meat factories essentially shut down the processing industry, and led to companies running the plants to seek injunctions against individual farmers.
Two farmers who continued to face injunctions were involved in blockades at C&D Foods, a pet food factory in Co Longford owned by Larry Goodman’s ABP Group. Last week C&D Foods, which is itself not a member of MII, applied to strike out injunctions it had sought against the farmers.
Following this move the beef taskforce reconvened for its first meeting on Tuesday, which sources said is not expected to be as tense as previous negotiations between farmer representatives and MII.
The roundtable talks are scheduled to last until the afternoon.
The set-up of the taskforce is similar in nature to the “beef forum” set up by then-minister for agriculture Simon Coveney in 2014, which discussed farmers concerns over beef prices but made little headway to resolve grievances.
In a statement ahead of the new discussions, IFA president Joe Healy said increases in price for cattle must be top of the group’s agenda.
“We need to see real progress on the independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector,” he said.
“The independent examination of the price composition of the total value of the animal, including the fifth quarter, along the supply chain needs to be progressed,” he said.