‘Mercosur will cut the throat of Irish beef production’

Beef producers will be forced to “wind down” and become part-time farmers if the EU ‘s current tariff-free import offer of 99,000t under the pending Mercosur trade deal is accepted, Patrick Kent, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has warned.

Speaking after a number of meetings with MEPs at the European Parliament in Brussels last week, Kent said he was “appalled” to learn that the EU is prepared to up its annual quota offer from 70,000t to 99,000t in a bid to close the drawn-out deal with Mercosur countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Last week, a senior source within the commission confirmed to AgriLand that the increased beef access offer is on the table; however, the source also stressed that 99,000t is the “cut-off point” and that the EU will not concede to a six-figure quantity.

“It’s appalling that the 99,000t is on the table; it is imperative that that is removed immediately,” said Kent who lead a large delegation of ICSA representatives in Brussels last week.

The group was there to lobby MEPS and various agricultural think tanks on Mercosur, Brexit and the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020.

It will mean that farmers will have to dis-invest from beef production, wind down and become part-time farmers.

“It will force them to rely on alternative sources of income – be it farm assist or part-time employment – that is what will happen here.

“99,000t is a step too far. When you combine it with Brexit and CETA [a new trade agreement between the EU and Canada] and when you consider the strict quality standards that we adhere to in Ireland; it is disgraceful. We will be left exposed and vulnerable – all for the sake of appeasing car manufacturing in Europe,” said Kent.

Meanwhile, independent MEP, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, has warned that the pending EU/Mercosur deal will be an “absolute disaster” for Irish agriculture.

“As far as I’m concerned we are saying goodbye to us continuing to produce beef and the trade-off is for the European car industry and the pharmaceutical industry.

“But we don’t have a car industry in Ireland; we have a pharmaceutical industry but it can get up and move at any time.

“The one thing that can’t move is the land and the farmers – that is a permanent industry and we are now gambling it,” he told AgriLand.

Mercosur beef already in EU

The Midlands-North and West representative said, from what he can gather, there are already tens of thousands of tonnes of beef coming into Europe from Mercosur countries; and so the potential looming deal will be an additional agreement.

“Lets be real about it, if we let Mercosur go through then we have made a policy decision that we will not be producing beef in Ireland at any rate – that will be the decision we have made,” he said.

“We won’t be making it overnight; it will be bit by bit over the next number of years; these people will just be ran out of town and we can’t compete.

Whether it’s 70,000t or 100,000t will be the difference between cutting your throat with a blunt knife or a sharp one – the end result will be the same.