EU urged to review meat import rules during Covid-19

The European beef and veal sector has been severely hit by the Covid-19 crisis, and needs EU support at this time – including a more targeted tariff rate quota for meat imports, according to European farm organisation umbrella group Copa-Cogeca.

With the loss of the food service and catering channels, the EU high-value cuts, including veal, have lost their market outlets and have experienced serious drops in demand.

This has led to increases in costs and inevitable detrimental consequences for prices, the organisation has warned.

Jean-Pierre Fleury, chair of the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Beef and Veal, said:

“The beef and veal sector is currently facing exceptional circumstances as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19. The high-value cuts represent 30% of the total carcass value, particularly those carcasses coming from the EU specialised herd.

Despite these extreme difficulties, cheap cuts are still imported from Mercosur countries. Copa-Cogeca believes that exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures.

“We are therefore calling upon the European Commission to immediately decide on a more targeted TRQ management. EU imports of high-value cuts need to be reviewed, without any penalties.

“Moreover, the activation of market measures needs to be examined, including private storage aid for specific high-value cuts and veal, as well as exceptional measures permitted under the CMO [Common Market Organisation] regulation.

“The next Agricultural Council of Ministers needs to be decisive. This is urgent,” Fleury warned.

Sheep sector

Meanwhile, regarding EU sheep and goat enterprises, Copa-Cogeca noted that there is currently a downward trend for prices at a time when there would usually be an upward trend because of Covid-19.

Michèle Boudoin, chair of the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Sheep, outlined the difficult situation, stating that:

“The Easter period is approaching and we are seeing severe impact on the consumption of sheep and goat meat and milk following the closure of the hotel and catering sector because of Covid-19.

The seasonal nature of this production means that this cannot be pushed back to another time of the year. At the same time, imported products are coming onto the EU market at the only time of the year when the market can generate a revenue for sheep and goat producers.

“Copa-Cogeca is therefore asking for immediate action to alleviate the difficulties in this sector.

“We urge the European Commission to look into the TRQ management, to examine the activation of private storage for sheep and goat meat, to consider the activation of exceptional measures to cover the costs of keeping animals on the farm, and to put in place a private storage scheme for sheep and goat cheese, curd and milk powder.”

Certain Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) flexibility – on productivity rate and livestock density – would need to be looked at, Boudoin said.

Copa-Cogeca concluded by outlining the hope that the European Commission, supported by member states, will “seriously consider the necessary measures needed to safeguard these high-quality European livestock sectors”.