Speaking from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the EU-Mercosur trade discussions are on hold until the New Year without agreement, IFA President Joe Healy said the serious threat from a bad deal on beef and poultry has not gone away.
He said the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan must intensify the pressure against a Mercosur deal which will seriously damage the EU and Irish beef sector.
Following a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Celia Malmstrom at the talks, Joe Healy said the Commissioner must be reined in and not allowed to sacrifice beef to secure an overall deal. He said farmers fear that the Trade Commissioner is willing to give more concessions than are necessary to the Brazilians.
The IFA President said the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be in Brussels later this week and he must make it crystal clear to his European colleagues that Ireland will not agree to a damaging Mercosur deal for the beef sector.
“Beef is more important to Ireland than any other member state. The Taoiseach and 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 and European Director Liam MacHale, Joe Healy has been in Buenos Aires all week, working on the Mercosur trade talks. The negotiations were taking place in parallel with the 11th WTO Ministerial meeting.
The IFA President said an EU deal on beef with Brazil in the Mercosur negotiations would be toxic. He called on Commissioner Malmstrom to come clean and reject the environmental destruction, failures on food safety and animal welfare, and slave labour associated with Brazilian beef.
Joe Healy 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 current 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 would be reckless and 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 Malmstrom 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”.