DONEGAL County Council has backed calls by the Beef Plan Movement for the establishment of an independent meat regulator.
Councillor Tom Conaghan received unanimous support when he tabled a motion before the local authority on behalf of the campaign group.
Chair of the Donegal Beef Plan Movement, John Meehan, said the appointment of a regulator would bring a “much needed transparency and fairness” into the beef industry.
In 2019 farmers picketed meat processing plants, including Foyle Meats in Carrigans, in protest at a decrease in the amount they were receiving for their product. A further demand was made for greater transparency on beef prices and for a fair distribution of profits along the supply chain.
The protests ended when an agreement was brokered between beef farmers and meat processors. But 18 months on and the Beef Plan
Movement says many of the promises made and issues discussed at the time, including the appointment of an independent regulator, have yet to be fulfilled.
“What is needed is a regulator with real powers to get a fair share of the retail price for farmers,” said John Meehan.
“We have held peaceful protests and have engaged in beef sector negotiations and Beef Market Task Force meetings where the appointment of an independent meat regulator was brought up but has failed to be entertained, discussed or debated.”
During recent talks with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, the Beef Plan Movement reiterated that its factory protests were stood down on a promise from the government that the problems facing farmers could be addressed in a taskforce forum.
But according to John Meehan few of the problems have been ironed out.
“We are requesting that a bill for the appointment of an independent meat regulator with statutory powers be drafted,” he said.
“Farmers deliver food products to every kitchen table on this island and to many other countries across Europe and the world.
“Cattle and sheep farmers are caught in the stranglehold of a system that requires immediate reform. Without reform within the meat industry there will be a breakdown in the supply chain and trust will never be rebuilt between producer and processor.
“Our suckler and dairy farmers all need the protection of a regulator to ensure their businesses remain viable and to protect the fabric of rural life and the viability of many businesses nationwide.”
The Beef Plan Movement added that it is calling on all county councillors, senators, TDs and farm organisations to push for the formation and appointment of an independent regulator.
“This regulator must be responsible for making sure all parts of the meat industry have the same rules therefore making it a level playing field and that the farmers doing the majority of the hard work are treated with the same respect therefore getting more money for their part in this supply chain.
“Most county councils around Ireland have supported this motion of confidence in an independent meat regulator and this must not be ignored by our minister or government,” added the Donegal Beef Plan chair.
Donegal County Council said it would “follow up as requested” on the decision by elected members to support Councillor Conaghan’s motion.