The EU is a global standards setter and will insist that all beef and other food products imported into Ireland under the EU-Mercosur Agreement “comply 100% with the EU’s stringent food safety standards”, according to the European Commission.

Commission officials stated categorically that “beef or other food products imported from Mercosur will not be of a lower standard than those produced in Europe”.

This will be the responsibility of the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office, based in Grange, Co. Meath.

In a statement on the matter, Commissioner Hogan explained that these new arrangements will not be introduced overnight, saying:

This beef quota will be implemented over several years, not starting before 2022 and then only over the following five years in annual instalments.

“In other words, it will be up to 2028 before this deal is fully implemented.”

The deal also includes a safeguard clause, which can be used if the EU agri-industry is seriously affected by increased imports. This is the first time that such a measure was included in any free-trade agreement, according to the commission.

A number of environment/climate commitments were made to ensure that the Mercosur countries fulfil their obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The reduction or scrapping of tariffs in the agri-food sector presents new opportunities for cheese, skimmed milk powder and infant formula as well as Irish whiskey and cream, according to the commission.

Many of these industries are based in rural Ireland and support rural communities throughout the country, according to officials.

The commissioner welcomed “the Taoiseach’s commitment to undertake a detailed economic evaluation of the deal before the Irish Government delivers its verdict”.

Farmer reaction

However, in spite of commission assurances, Irish farm bodies have reacted furiously to the news of the agreement and the quota of 99,000t of imported beef reached under the deal.

Commenting on the ambition behind the deal, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed told the Dáil earlier this week that it is his responsibility “to ensure that everything is done to frustrate, to mitigate and to dismantle the ambition and to protect the interests of the Irish sector”.