The owners of the Meadow Meats in Rathdowney have warned the facility may close as a result of the ongoing blockade by protesters.
Talks between various beef stakeholders took place at the weekend – but despite reports that agreement had been reached, and the blockades would be lifted, not all farmers are happy with the proposals and protests continued at the factory gates in Rathdowney, as they have for almost a month now by independent farmers.
The agreement reached on Sunday includes: a number of interventions for beef producers; actions for improving information along the supply chain; the provision of a Beef Market Taskforce; and the implementation of an EU regulation on price reporting.
However, the agreement is conditional on blockades and protests being removed immediately.
No cattle have been slaughtered at the factory in Rathdowney in weeks and it is entirely shut down.
Staff at the plant were laid off temporarily last week, but the company has said the lay-offs may become permanent.
Meadow Meats, which is owned by the Dawn Meats Group, issued a statement on Monday evening where they claimed that in recent days 300 local farmers have been in contact wanting to sell more than 10,000 cattle into the abattoir.
A spokesperson for Meadow Meats said: “The current situation is unsustainable and we cannot rule out having to close the business, meaning Laois’s only beef factory would not be available to service the local farmer community.”
Almost 100 people work at Meadow Meats, which is the largest employer in Rathdowney.
Continuing, the statement said: “Their illegal blockade is in breach of a permanent court order and shows contempt for the deal agreed over the weekend between seven farmer representative groups, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the beef processors.”
It further outlined that there have been “many instances of intimidation, verbal and physical abuse displayed over this dispute”.
The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has called on farmers involved in the beef factory dispute to give the agreement reached over last weekend a chance.
Minister Creed says the voices of the protesting farmers has been heard and that the agreement was a compromise where nobody got everything they wanted.
He acknowledged that price is a central concern but says legally that could not be discussed.
Minister Creed appealed to farmers to consider what continuing their protest means, arguing the future of the beef sector is in their hands.
Six of the country’s largest and longest-established farm organisations are recommending the settlement terms.
However, the group, Independent Farmers of Ireland, set up to represent farmers at the factory gates, said it would neither accept nor reject the settlement proposals.
RTÉ News reported that representatives of the Beef Plan Movement and the Independent Farmers of Ireland have been in direct communication with factory managers at local level around the country in a bid to see if an increase in the base price for beef can be attained this week if the protests come to an end.