DUBLIN, Ireland – Thousands of cattle producers across Ireland staged 24-hour pickets outside meat plants Oct. 27-28 to protest low prices for beef cattle.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) organized the protest. Eddie Downey, IFA president, said cattle producers were angry over a massive €350 ($446) per head cattle price gap in Ireland's main export market in the United Kingdom. For the past 12 months, Downey said, farmers have been selling their cattle at "loss-making prices", and specification cuts have pressured producers' income.

“Our main markets have recovered strongly and farmers are not prepared to tolerate loss-making prices any longer,” Downey said. “MII [Meat Industry Ireland] must address the fundamental issue, which is their refusal to pass back to Irish farmers strong UK market price increases of over 30c/kg ($128 per head) in the last number of weeks.”

Downey said producers want beef prices at the meat factories to increase to fairly reflect the strong prices for beef in the UK, where Irish beef sales climbed 20 percent this year. Current prices in Britain for R grade steers are running at the equivalent of €4.74/kg ($6.04) including the value-added tax, which is €1/kg higher than the €3.73/kg ($4.76) Irish price. Downey said figures from Teagasc, Ireland's agriculture and food development authority, show that on the most efficient farms, producers need a base price of at least €4.00/kg ($5.10).