‘Madness’ to make any offer to New Zealand on lamb imports

It would be “madness” for EU negotiators to make any lamb import offer to New Zealand at this time in the EU/NZ trade negotiations, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

IFA National Sheep Committee chairman Sean Dennehy highlighted that now is not the time, with Brexit negotiations on a knife edge and the UK such a major player in the sheepmeat sector on the EU market as well as the main import destination for New Zealand lamb.

Dennehy said New Zealand is only filling about half of its existing 228,254t quota on sheepmeat into the EU in recent years.

There is no basis to increase the New Zealand Tariff Rate Quota on sheepmeat. Any attempt to do so can only be interpreted by European sheep farmers as a sell-out or a sacrifice of the sector for benefits in other trade areas.

On Brexit, Dennehy said the EU has to insist that the traditional historic volumes going from New Zealand into the UK market go with the UK, and in turn are removed from the EU quota.

“In practice this would mean that the EU quota post-Brexit would halve. This has to be part of Brexit and any new trade deal between the EU and NZ.”

The chairman said all imports must meet EU standards and the Brexit dilemma must be satisfactorily resolved. The IFA is also lobbying the European Commission and MEPs on the issues, he added.

New Zealand already has more access to the valuable EU single market than any other country, including EU member states, without paying any taxes and without meeting EU standards on key issues like traceability and the environment.

Dennehy called on the EU negotiators to pull back and insist that the standards applied to New Zealand sheepmeat imports are similar to those imposed on Irish and European sheep farmers, like electronic identification and strict standards on environmental controls.

He said: “This is what the EU Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies are all about – a level playing field and higher standards.

“We need to see this in action in trade deals. Anything less is a total contradiction and makes a mockery out of all the EU Commission has said over the last few weeks on the Green Deal and standards,” the chairman concluded.