Andrew Boylan and Patrick McCormick hold the IFA banner at the protest outside Aldi this morning. Photo: Damian McCarney

'We have no other option'

PRICES Farmers mount protest outside Aldi calling for increase in chicken and pork price.

Pig and poultry farmers mounted a protest outside Aldi this morning, the latest in the IFA's moves to highlight the crises hitting the sectors.

Not yet 8am on Monday morning, and an hour and a half ahead of the scheduled start of the protest, a Monaghan dominated contingent of farmers had already gathered at the two entry points to the Dublin Road retail discount store.

Wearing a red IFA jacket with the logo 'No Farmers No Food' emblazoned on the back Patrick McCormick sits up in the boot of a jeep at the eastern entrance, with half a dozen fellow farmers huddled either side.

Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Lidl, and others have had the farming community descend on their shopfronts in recent months, and last week Hilton Foods outside Drogheda endured the experience. The farmers' plight is familiar to anyone following the IFA protests over the last six months, yet the intensity with which they are feeling the bite of input costs has intensified considerably.

The IFA members are repeating their demands for a 15c increase in chicken prices and 30c/kg in pork prices. It was the same call made by poultry farmers outside Lidl in January. Rising costs of production had bruised their bank accounts, but Russian troops were still massed at the Ukrainian border and were yet to launch the offensive that would costs so many lives and send input prices stratospheric.

A former national poultry chairman, Andrew Boylan explained they had outlined their concerns to Lidl over rising costs in October, November, and briefly on Christmas week.

"We have had no response from Aldi at this time - we're in need of more money to cover our costs. Needless to say when we started this last October, the increase in costs has quadrupled. Actually the figure we put on the table wouldn't even cover today's costs," he remarks.

Regardless of the worsening position, IFA have stuck to their initial demands for now.

"It's highly likely that unless costs decrease, that we will need a further [price] increase coming into autumn time," says Patrick.

Depending on the processors, there has been some inroads for the poultry sector, but progress has been minimal on retail prices.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has responded with two packages for the beleaguered pork sector, €7m in March, and a further €13m last month. The Celt asks if the poultry farmers look at these aid packages for pork producers and wonder where their support is?

"It's only like a drop in the ocean to them, that's completely insufficient," says Patrick McCormick, IFA county chairman.

"We're not, because poultry farmers are struggling to break even, but we're just about break even. Pig farmers are in actual serious loss making territory at this stage. At the minute pig farmers are looking for 30c/kg, and that won't even take them to break even. But they are asking for that as an initial ask, and hoping that the markets might bring them up to break even."

What does he think the chances of success are here? A soft spoken man, Patrick considers the question amidst the morning silence and responds in a measured tone.

"We honestly don't know, but we have no other option. We are just hoping that someone will listen to us."

And if no one does, is there any plans to escalate the protests?

"It's a possibility," says Patrick. "There's no plans but it is a possibility, yes."