Mercosur deal ‘concerning’ for McConalogue as he awaits impact assessment results

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said the Mercosur trade deal is something he has “real concern on” as his department awaits on the results of an impact assessment it has commissioned.

Speaking at the first public meeting of the Committee on Agriculture and the Marine this term, the minister said he expects to receive the outcome of the assessment in “the near future” and that it will “certainly inform” how the department approaches the issue going forward.

He described the deal as “very concerning” and that there can’t be a situation where anything “that is not equivalent in standards” is coming into the EU from a quality and environmental point of view.

“It can’t be of a lower standard than we are producing here and I think that’s an essential qualification in how the deal is considered.”

Speaking at the meeting, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy noted that Minister McConalogue, before taking up his current portfolio, “had previously been incredibly critical in relation to the government’s position on the deal”.

“The fact that it’s still on the table when we listened to the very real threats that are facing Irish agriculture with regard to Brexit and Covid difficulties,” the deputy added.

Cahill also criticises Mercosur trade deal

Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill, the chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, had his first meeting at a European level in his new role this week.

At the meeting – titled ‘European Green Deal and Common Agricultural Policy Conference’ – Cahill spoke on a number of issues affecting Irish farmers in particular, including the need to ensure that any trade deal the EU enters “must be fundamentally based upon the need for a sustainable production model”.

I questioned how the Mercosur deal was compatible with carbon reduction targets and a green agricultural policy. Consumers want food at an affordable price, but such a low price is not viable for primary food producers. Margins are far too tight.

“Any deal such as Mercusor is only going to further undermine those prices, move away from a sustainable model of farming, and make climate-friendly farming unviable,” Cahill said.