DUBLIN – Protests by cattle producers in Ireland brought their issues to the forefront at the Beef Roundtable, a forum for processors, farm organizations and other Irish beef industry stakeholders.

Representatives from the Irish Farmers' Association, Meat Industry Ireland, met with Agriculture Simon Coveney and representatives of Tesco and McDonald's, the two largest buyers of Irish beef. The meeting is the first to include input from buyers.

The cattle producers agreed to the creation of producer organizations to help negotiate prices for beef.

“I am delighted that all of the participants in the forum endorsed the establishment of Producer Organizations in the beef sector," Coveney said in a statement. “Providing for Producer Organizations in the sectors such as beef was a strong focus of mine in the re-negotiated CAP last year. It is clear to me that they represent the best opportunity to re-balance the relationship in the supply chain between producers and processors by empowering farmers to organize collectively for the purposes of negotiating on prices with processors. Such organizations can also add value through the common purchase of inputs, joint distribution, marketing and the agreement of quality specification.”

The meeting came after thousands of cattle producers across Ireland staged 24-hour pickets outside meat plants to highlight low prices for beef cattle. The IFA said Irish cattle producers receive €350 ($446) less per head compared to their counterparts in the United Kingdom. Eddie Downey, IFA president, said processors must increase prices for beef to reflect market improvements in the UK and address specification cuts.

“Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney confirmed that he will convene another meeting of the Beef Forum on November 12th and in the interim, he expects significant progress to be made on the market price and specification issues,” Downey said following the meeting held Oct. 29.