Steak market will be ‘seriously impacted’ by Mercosur – MII

There will be a “serious impact” for the beef sector if steak cuts from South America are allowed into Europe under the Mercosur trade deal, according to Cormac Healy, senior director of Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

“The steak market is important. While it accounts for 8% to 10% of the volume of beef, it accounts for 30% of the value,” Healy explained on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1 today, Monday, July 1.

He said that, in the European Commission’s last offer to Mercosur, measures were included that would mitigate against this issue, including breaking the 99,000t tariff quota down into sub-quotas that would have protected against an excessive amount of steak cuts entering the European market.

Unfortunately, they’ve given way on that.

“We would estimate that international prices of stake coming from Mercosur countries are probably in the region of 50% of what they are in the EU. Up to know some of those would be carrying a significant duty coming into Europe,” Healy outlined.

He continued: “The whole point of this deal is that those duties are now being wiped, and they’re being given free and unfettered access.”

Healy argued that such a scenario would be “extremely damaging”, particularly as “we head into the unknown territory of Brexit”.

That’s the real point here, Brexit could completely disrupt the European beef market, and yet we’re in the position of granting additional access.

He also highlighted the potential threat to jobs in the meat processing sector, explaining that of the 14,000 direct jobs in the sector, 10,000 worked in beef processing.

“This deal is very negative, there’s no question about it. For our members, who are the exporters of Irish beef to EU markets, they’re extremely concerned. Ireland is the major exporter in Europe, and we will be the first to be impacted, and probably face the most immediate and greatest impact,” Healy stressed.

He acknowledged that there were “gives and takes, winners and losers” in trade, but that: “There can’t be any loser that is so grievously damaged to the benefit of other parts of the economy. That’s our biggest concern here.”