EU-Mercosur trade discussions are on hold until the new year without agreement in Buenos Aires, according to the IFA.

Speaking from Argentina, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy, said the serious threat from a bad deal on beef and poultry has not gone away.

He said the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, must intensify the pressure against a Mercosur deal which will seriously damage the EU and Irish beef sector.

Following a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Celia Malmstrom at the talks, Healy said the commissioner must be reined in; and not allowed to sacrifice beef to secure an overall deal. He added that farmers fear that the trade commissioner is willing to give more concessions than are necessary to the Brazilians.

Healy said the Taoiseach will be in Brussels later this week and he must make it “crystal clear” to his European colleagues that Ireland will not agree to a damaging Mercosur deal for the beef sector.

Beef is more important to Ireland than any other member state.

“The Taoiseach and Commissioner Hogan cannot agree to a Mercosur deal involving a major increase in substandard beef imports from Brazil at the same time as we face into the serious challenges of Brexit,” he said.

Together with the IFA national livestock chairman, Angus Woods, and European director, Liam MacHale, the IFA president has been in Buenos Aires all week, working on the Mercosur trade talks, according to the IFA.

The negotiations were taking place in parallel with the 11th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting.

Healy said an EU deal on beef with Brazil in the Mercosur negotiations would be “toxic”.

He called on Commissioner Malmstrom to come clean and reject the environmental destruction, failures on food safety and animal welfare, and slave labour associated with Brazilian beef.

The president said Irish and European beef farmers are very angry at the way they are being sacrificed in Mercosur; adding that there is “bad blood” over the current offer of an additional 70,000t tariff free quota (TRQ) offered by the EU.

Last year, an EU JRC (Joint Research Centre) report showed how vulnerable the European beef sector is to trade deals – particularly the suckler sectors in France, Spain and Ireland. The analysis showed that increased imports from Mercosur would hit EU beef prices by up to 16%, costing €5 billion annually.

Due to this country’s export dependence, the impact on Ireland would be greater, potentially costing between €500-€750 million. In addition, Brexit has placed a major doubt over the UK market for 260,000t of Irish beef.