Some 300 farmers attended the Irish Farmers' Association’s (IFA) beef meeting in Portlaoise this week, where Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats outlined his views on the current 50c gap between Ireland’s beef price and the average in the EU.

While Nolan was the only representative from all beef processors to attend the meeting, farmers did not hold back in sharing their grievances over the current price situation.

They said if the beef sector continues the way it is going, young farmers will continue to be deterred towards dairying and that those left in beef could go broke by next spring.

Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats answered questions from the floor at the IFA meeting. \ Lorraine O'Sullivan

Thomas O’Connor, Kildare IFA chair

“You’re looking into a room of farmers that have lost enthusiasm and you’re sucking the enthusiasm out of the young farmers that want to get into this industry.

“If this industry keeps continuing the way it is, the whole industry is going to crumble.”

Jim Mulhall, Kilkenny

“There are beef farmers ringing me and saying the factories are saying [with] a nod and a wink, ‘sure look put them in anyway and feed them and we’ll see what’ll happen at the end. There might be a few bob, we’ll see what we can do’.

“I think you’re not being fair. I think you’re being very disrespectful. You wouldn’t run your business now in the same way these men run their business.

Kilkenny IFA chair Jim Mulhall at the IFA beef meeting in Laois.

“You wouldn’t get up in the morning, do the figures and say ‘I hope I make a few bob out of this. Maybe if the supermarket buyer would show me a bit of respect, I may or may not’.

“The issue here is there are farmers potentially going to go broke next spring if they or we don’t get the price that they need and deserve. You’re not giving us a straight answer. You’re being very disrespectful to winter finishers. A nod or a wink won’t cut it when they meet their bank manager next spring.”

Michael Joyce, Kilkenny

“I campaigned and went around my [IFA] branch and asked a lot of people, a lot of them a lot older than me now, to come with me tonight, we’d fill a few cars. They told me where to go.

“They said ‘the only difference between you and me [is] we know we’re going broke. You’re just hoping you won’t’.

Beef farmers are a dying breed, according to one farmer present. / David Ruffles

“Just from a psychological point of view, I’m sitting back here and look around the room, there’s barely two or three [farmers] younger than me in this room. When they’re all gone and all these lads who have taken out loans, there’s going to be nothing left. We’re a dying breed.

“Unless the IFA start growing a pair of teeth and start doing something about it, we’re wasting our time.”

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