Hackett interview: Comparing Irish with Brazilian beef ‘doesn’t credit our brand’

Comparing Irish beef with Brazilian beef in the context of the Mercosur agreement “doesn’t do us any favours and doesn’t credit our brand”, according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Pippa Hackett.

The minister made the comment as part of a broad-ranging interview with AgriLand editor Jim Breen and news journalist Sylvester Phelan.

Speaking to AgriLand last week, on Monday, July 27, Minister Hackett revealed her stance on Mercosur, outlining that Irish farmers need to show what sets their beef apart from cheaper imports.

Also Read: Hackett interview: ‘Negative CAP commentary is not good for agri sector’

As someone who has campaigned on environmental issues, what is your view of the Mercosur trade agreement?

More specifically, when we consider the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy – in the context of the Mercosur agreement – it might appear as though as we are gradually legislating Irish livestock and tillage farmers out of existence, whereby the EU will instead import produce from markets [such as Brazil] that are not subject to the same [environmental and food safety] standards.

Is this view justified?

Minister Hackett: There is that risk, but I would like to think that Irish produce would still stand head and shoulders above produce from Brazil and other countries that are deforesting at the rate they are.

Ultimately, we rely on the consumer to pay for that. There seems to be a general issue and problem with that; an idea that consumers just won’t pay.

I think consumers will pay. It is hugely important to be aware that consumer trends are changing. We’ve seen it in Europe. If we look at beef, consumption is on the decline.

So, in order to compete in that market, we are going to have to produce a fantastic product that keeps us on the top shelf. We don’t want to be competing on the second shelf with Mercosur beef, because then we’ve lost.

Whatever needs to be done [we need to do], whether it [involves] us signing up to commitments or EU strategies.

Leading on that; this has to be the opportunity as we are at this crossroads in agriculture. We have a new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] in a year-and-a-half and we have these new strategies from the EU. Here in Ireland, we also have our new Programme for Government to implement.

If we can get all of those things right we should be at the top of the pile; that’s where we need to be aiming for.

Always comparing ourselves to Brazilian beef doesn’t do us any favours. It doesn’t credit our own brand.

We absolutely have to be aiming higher.