Speaking from the WTO Ministerial Conference, which is taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina this week, IFA President Joe Healy said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan cannot agree to a bad Mercosur deal which will seriously damage the Irish beef sector, our largest farming enterprise.
“Beef is more important to Ireland than any other member state. Commissioner Hogan cannot agree to a Mercosur deal involving a major increase in substandard beef imports from Brazil at the same time as we face into the serious challenges of Brexit.”
Together with the IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods, Joe Healy is in Buenos Aires Argentina where meetings ahead of the 113th WTO Ministerial are taking place on an EU Mercosur trade deal.
Joe Healy said there is major pressure on from the EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström to agree a deal with the Brazil and others in Mercosur, regardless of the consequences for the European and Irish beef sector. He said based on the excessive offers DG Trade have put on the table to date it is clear Commissioner Malmstrom is willing to sacrifice the beef sector to secure a deal at any costs.
The IFA President said any EU deal on beef with Brazil in the Mercosur negotiations is toxic. He called on Commissioner Celia Maelstrom to come clean and reject the environmental destruction, failures on food safety and animal welfare, and slave labour associated with Brazilian beef.
The IFA President said Irish and European beef farmers are very angry at the way they are being sacrificed in Mercosur and there is bad blood over the excessive offer of an additional 70,000t TRQ offered by the EU.
Last year, an EU JRC (Joint Research Centre) report showed how vulnerable the European beef sector is to trade deals, particularly the suckler sectors in France, Spain and Ireland. The analysis showed that increased imports from Mercosur would hit EU beef prices by up to 16%, costing €5bn annually. Due to our export dependence, the impact on Ireland would be greater, potentially costing between €500m-€750m. In addition, Brexit has placed a major doubt over the UK market for 260,000t of Irish beef.
With Brexit, the EU beef market would be 116% self-sufficient. To negotiate a trade deal with Mercosur at this time makes no sense whatsoever.
Joe Healy said Irish and European farmers are required to meet the highest food safety and environmental standards in the world. “It is a total contradiction of European policy that Commissioner Maelstrom is now willing to cut a deal for more beef imports from Brazil and sacrifice sustainable production in Europe.”
He said Irish beef production is four times more carbon efficient than Brazil where growth is driven on the back of destruction of the rainforests.
In addition, the IFA President said the Weak Flesh corruption scandal in Brazil in March 2017 proved once again the failure of Brazil to meet European standards. He said the EU Commission FVO report in May 2017 clearly stated “the Brazilian Competent Authority is not in a position to guarantee that the relevant export requirements are met”.