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Monday, December 1, 1997 Published at 12:03 GMT


Welsh farmers blockade port
image: [ Farmers say cheap imports mean they cannot sell their cattle at market ]
Farmers say cheap imports mean they cannot sell their cattle at market

Hundreds of Welsh farmers have been blockading the port of Holyhead in Wales to protest against cheap beef imports from the Irish Republic.

At one point their anger and frustration spilled over and they raided one of the lorries on the quayside and threw tons of burgers made from Irish beef into the sea.

[ image: Tons of burgers were dumped into the Irish sea]
Tons of burgers were dumped into the Irish sea
The blockade has now been lifted. But the farmers have threatened to prevent Irish beef from being brought into the country in the future.

Many of the protestors have urged other farmers from around the country to join them.

The National Farmers Union in Wales has demanded an urgent meeting with the Welsh Secretary, Ron Davies, to discuss the situation. The union plans to gather a mass petition to present to him in the next fortnight.

'Frustration and anger'

The blockade followed a mass meeting of farmers on Sunday, called in response to a growing crisis in Welsh agriculture.

They said the strong pound was boosting cheap imports of beef from abroad in the run-up to Christmas, in particular from the Irish Republic. This means that they have been unable to sell their cattle at market in recent weeks.

The farmers are calling for the Government to access European funds which the say are available to Irish farmers.

Peter Rogers, a spokesman for the farmers said: "It has been an absolutely desperate week ... we've got to get a government that is either going to be briefed in the correct way or to understand some of the problems of agriculture."

Keith Jones of the NFU said: "The protest underlines the critical situation facing Welsh farmers and rural businesses.

"We would strongly urge farmers not to get involved in any unlawful proceedings, but at the same time we fully understand the growing frustration and anger that is behind the move."

BBC correspondent Roger Pinney reports from the scene (Dur: 42")

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