Mercosur talks: ‘Beef must be taken off the table’, as farmers begin protest

Reports that the European Commission is set to offer a 70,000t beef quota at this week’s Mercosur talks in Brasilia was met with outrage from Irish stakeholders recently.

Farm organisations have criticised the alleged move, with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) planning a protest in Dublin later today.

The reported offer is deeply concerning, according to Fianna Fail’s Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Charlie McConologue.

Speaking on the matter, the TD said the situation is very worrying for beef farmers in Ireland.

My party has been consistent in the view that an EU-Mercosur trade deal with South America represents a dangerous threat to European and Irish beef farmers.

“In light of the contaminated Brazilian meat export scandal earlier this year, it is my firm belief that any discussions on beef entering the EU market remain off the negotiation table.

“It is extremely important that Ireland and other like-minded member states make it clear to the commission that European consumers cannot be exposed to substandard standards.

“The EU must continue to uphold our premier food safety, animal health, traceability and environmental standards.”

The deputy continued, noting: “As a major exporter of beef into the EU marketplace (over 90%), any potential deal would represent a direct threat for continued market share for Irish beef product.

Any new tariff rate quota for South American countries would result in high-value steak cuts being imported from the region, resulting in a negative impact on EU beef prices.

“It is essential that the Irish government and other like-minded countries make it clear to the commission that any trade discussions cannot undermine European and Irish beef farmers, and I will be raising this issue with Minister Creed in the coming days.”

IFA Protest over Mercosur negotiations

Meanwhile, the IFA has also reacted angrily to the reported Mercosur deal, with a farmers’ protest planned for this morning (Wednesday, October 4).

IFA President Joe Healy will lead a protest today at 11:30am outside the EU Commission offices on Lower Mount Street in Dublin.

Large crowds are expected, with buses arranged from around the country for the protest.

‘Nothing less than madness’

Yesterday, the President of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association) John Comer said that the move has to be seen as representing the sacrifice of the EU beef sector in general and the Irish beef sector in particular.

Comer said that the 11 countries that had stood against the offer must now band together and make it plain to the commission that the reported offer cannot proceed.

The president described the idea that Ireland could even entertain the notion of 70,000t of South American Mercosur beef arriving into the EU at precisely the same time as we would be losing our UK market as nothing less than madness.

Were the deal to proceed, Comer added, it had to be seen as a conscious decision on the commission’s part to sacrifice the EU’s beef sector as a quid-pro-quo in an overall trade agreement.

Economics aside, the president said there are very serious questions about how this proposal would facilitate an expansion of the South American beef sector.