Ir­ish farm­ers will ‘feel brunt’ of EU’s Mer­co­sur deal ‘sell-out’

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

THE EU’s ex­pected of­fer of a fur­ther 70,000t beef quota to South Amer­i­can beef farm­ers as part of the trade deal with Mer­co­sur has been slammed by the farm or­gan­i­sa­tions and pro­cess­ing sec­tor.

The IFA and ICSA claimed the deal rep­re­sented a “sell out” of beef farm­ers and a pos­si­ble ham­mer blow to in­comes in the sec­tor.

Meat In­dus­try Ire­land (MII) said the move added to the un­cer­tainty around Brexit and de­scribed the Com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion as “com­pletely un­ac­cept­able”.

The trade talks be­tween the EU Com­mis­sion and Mer­co­sur —which in­cludes Brazil, Ar­gentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — have stalled in re­cent weeks over the fail­ure of Europe to make con­ces­sions on ac­cess for the South Amer­i­can trade bloc’s beef and ethanol ex­ports.

How­ever, both sides have com­mit­ted to agree­ing a trade deal by Christ­mas, and the Com­mis­sion’s move on beef is an ef­fort to give the ne­go­ti­a­tions some mo­men­tum. But the de­ci­sion has been roundly crit­i­cised.

“This amounts to a com­plete sell out of beef farm­ers across Europe, with the like­li­hood that Ir­ish farm­ers will feel the brunt,” said ICSA pres­i­dent Pa­trick Kent.

“The Mer­co­sur coun­tries have failed to meet EU stan­dards on the fun­da­men­tal is­sues of food safety and trace­abil­ity.

“EU beef farm­ers have en­deav­oured over many years to en­sure the very high­est stan­dards are met at every stage of pro­duc­tion. Agree­ing to al­low more and more in­fe­rior qual­ity beef into Europe sim­ply can­not be jus­ti­fied.”

IFA pres­i­dent Joe Healy said it was a ma­jor mis­take for the EU Com­mis­sion to make a 70,000t of­fer.

“It is in­cred­i­ble that de­spite strong ob­jec­tions from 11 EU mem­ber states, led by Ire­land and France, the EU Com­mis­sion are hell-bent on mak­ing ad­di­tional con­ces­sions to the Brazil­ians and other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries at a very high cost to Ir­ish and Euro­pean beef farm­ers,” Mr Healy said, with the IFA due to hold a protest at 11.30am to­mor­row out­side the EU of­fices on Mount Street in Dublin to high­light con­cerns.

Cormac Healy of MII said it was com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for the EU to give fur­ther con­ces­sions on Mer­co­sur beef ac­cess to the Euro­pean mar­ket.

“The re­vised of­fer of 70,000t of ad­di­tional beef ac­cess is grossly ex­ces­sive and is clear ev­i­dence of the EU beef sec­tor be­ing sac­ri­ficed for the sake of this deal,” Mr Healy said.

He pointed out that Ire­land, as the largest net ex­porter of beef in the EU, will be most ex­posed to the de­ci­sion.

Sac­ri­fic­ing

“While the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion may ar­gue the over­all ben­e­fits to the wider EU econ­omy from the pro­posed EU-Mer­co­sur trade deal, it is sac­ri­fic­ing the EU beef sec­tor in the process and ig­nor­ing its own Im­pact As­sess­ment which high­lighted the po­ten­tial dam­age to our sec­tor,” Mr Healy main­tained.

It is un­der­stood that the ex­pected 70,000t quota of­fer will in­clude 35,000t of fresh beef and 35,000t of frozen prod­uct. It is ex­pected that the 35,000t of fresh beef will tar­get the EU’s lu­cra­tive steak cuts mar­ket, with the frozen prod­uct aimed at the man­u­fac­tur­ing beef sec­tor.

In­dus­try sources ar­gue that all of the 70,000t quota will be taken up by the South Amer­i­can pro­ces­sors since their beef prices of €2.60-2.75/kg are just 70pc of the EU av­er­age and well be­low the €3.80/kg paid to Ir­ish farm­ers. Last year Mer­co­sur ex­ported 240,000t of beef into the EU, which rep­re­sented 75pc of all beef im­ports.

Com­ment­ing on the Com­mis­sion’s of­fer, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said that the Ir­ish beef in­dus­try had to be “taken care of ” in any Mer­co­sur deal.

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