The sight of protesters blockading the gates of some of the biggest meat plants in the country has dominated the news agenda all week.

Farmers say the price they are paid for cattle is too low, with many family farms failing to break even. They say unless prices increase, unviable farms will go to the wall and be forced out of the industry.

That they are there as a Chinese delegation visits to explore the possibility of buying more Irish beef is unfortunate timing (or possibly for the protesters, fortunate).

The issue with what has unfolded is a lack of leadership.

No one knows quite who is in charge.

The Beef Plan Movement was behind the protests last time out, this time it's different.

There is more criticism of the movement than anything on the pickets. Farmers are feeling abandoned.

An offer to facilitate talks earlier in the week by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed was greeted with a chorus of sighs from farm organisations.

The Beef Plan Movement, which actually called for the talks to be reconvened, have now all but ruled out returning to round table talks.

Other organisations said they’d go back to talks, but all with strings attached.

When farmers started being called to the High Court for breaching injunctions, the Irish Farmers Association immediately leapt to their defence.

Ironic given that earlier the Beef Plan Movement had said they would expel members if they took part in the illegal blockades.

The IFA says it will defend farmers, come what may, and it has.

Stumping up to pay barristers and solicitors to go into the High Court and defend farmers.

But that does present a question. Is the organisation supporting the protests?

All of the big farm organisations have had something to say about the blockades, today the Minister for Agriculture turned the tables. He wants the farm organisations to come together and issue a joint appeal to the meat industry and to protesters to stand back.

Asking the protesters to clear the gates, effectively, in the national interest.

Michael Creed has expressed concern about the damage to the meat industry.

50% of our beef is exported to the UK, in a few short weeks, that door could be closed if a hard Brexit hits. Exploring other export options is crucial.

Twelve plants have closed and the Meat Industry says some companies cannot fulfill orders.

The stakes are high and the Minister’s latest move is an effective put up or shut up to the farming groups.