Has the EU increased its Mercosur beef quota offer to 99,000t?

Uncertainty over the ambitious EU-Mercosur trade agreement lingers on as unconfirmed reports suggest the EU has raised its beef import quota offer from 70,000t to 99,000t.

Rodolfo Nin Novoa, the Uruguayan minister for foreign affairs, claims the EU has agreed to the quota increase; however, a commission source today reiterated that “no offer” has been made by the EU side.

Speaking during two separate interviews on Radio Uruguay – Uruguay’s state-owned radio station – the minister also reportedly said he is “confident” that an agreement on the deal will be finalised by the end of February.

According to an article in IEG Policy – a website providing daily updates on EU agricultural policy and agri-business – the Uruguayan foreign minister disclosed details of the “development” following a meeting of chief negotiators in Brussels last Friday (February 2).

The Uruguayan minister reportedly said he “appreciated the increase”.

However, it is understood that he also stressed that both sides still need to agree on aspects of the quota – such as how it will be administrated and how it will be divided between chilled and frozen beef.

“We are discussing some issues relating to volumes, classification and type of meat – whether it’s chilled or frozen and how the quota is administered,” explained the minister, according to the IEG Policy report.

It is understood that he also indicated that the EU is seeking “better access” to Mercosur markets for dairy products.

Although there does appear to be a willingness by the EU to make an additional effort in the negotiations, it is on condition that the other side also moves on key interests for the EU.

‘Concessions must be rejected’

Last week, Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) raised his concerns on the issue during a meeting with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

McCormack clearly stated to the commissioner that the Irish beef sector “cannot tolerate” further concessions – particularly in the context of Brexit.

The standards associated with existing concessions need to be addressed to ensure a level playing field for Irish beef producers. Mercusor represents a major threat to Irish beef and further concessions simply must be rejected.