The scheduled visit by a delegation of Chinese inspectors to Kepak Athleague has been cancelled as a result of an ongoing farmer protest outside the facility.

The visit was to obtain export approval to China for beef and sheepmeat from the site. However, no stock was able to enter the facility on Monday morning and the inspection did not go ahead.

In a statement, Kepak said senior management at the plant met with senior leaders of the Beef Plan Movement on Saturday night. A spokesperson for the processor said the importance of Chinese export approval was discussed and clearly understood.

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Beef Plan indicated it would take no action to facilitate livestock access for the purposes of the audit.

Monday morning

Kepak Athleague said it arranged the delivery of 90 cattle to the plant but livestock trucks were unable to gain access due to the presence of protestors. Gardaí also attended the factory.

The spokesperson said: “Kepak Athleague management then spoke with several of the protestors but were informed that there was no spokesperson for the group and that no truck would be passing the illegal blockade.”

“While making repeated requests to secure entry of the cattle and lambs and while highlighting the importance to the region of the plant being ‘Chinese export approved’, management were personally verbally threatened.”

Following consultation with the Department of Agriculture the inspection was cancelled.

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“This behaviour today, by people who claim to represent the interests of farmers is a massive own goal and the cost of the failure to get this site, Chinese export approved will be primarily borne by West of Ireland farmers for many years,” the statement concluded.

Videos posted online show protestors walking in a slow circle outside the gates of the factory. Livestock trucks can be seen queuing for entry before moving off.

Inspections

Visit to other factories subject to farmer protests have been facilitated up till now. Agreement was reached with protestors to allow the visiting Chinese delegation witness animals being slaughtered, fulfilling the purpose of their trip to Ireland.

Agreements have seen inspections take place on Monday at ABP Bandon, on Friday in Dawn Grannagh and ABP Ferrybank, and previously at ABP Cahir and Meadow Meats Rathdowney.

The inspectors were due to visit 16 processing facilities across the country to approve more Irish plants to export beef to China. Currently there are seven Irish beef plants approved for export of frozen beef to China, as well as five pigmeat plants.

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