There is no room on the EU market for additional beef imports from Brazil or South America and it would be totally unacceptable to include beef in any trade deal offer by the EU to the Mercosur trading bloc in light of the uncertainty around Brexit, IFA President Joe Healy has said.
Following reports this week that beef may be included in an EU trade deal offer to Mercosur countries, including Brazil, Joe Healy said Brexit has the potential to dramatically change the European beef market and this uncertainty cannot be ignored by the EU Commission in the Mercosur negotiations.
“The stark reality is that without the UK market, the EU beef sector would become 116% self-sufficient and there is simply no room for any additional beef imports. The EU Commission must insist that beef is excluded from the Mercosur trade discussions,” the IFA President said.
He said the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed recently made it clear at a Beef Forum meeting that Ireland’s position is that beef must be excluded from any deal. He said, “IFA fully supports this strong stance by the Minister. As well as support from the French, Minister Creed needs to build stronger support for this position with EU colleagues.”
In addition, Joe Healy said the EU Commission cumulative impact study on trade deals clearly shows that beef is extremely exposed and a very sensitive sector.
The IFA President pointed out that Brazil and other South American countries already have very substantial preferential access to the EU beef market. He said in 2015, the EU imported a total of 334,000t of beef, of which over 70% or 239,000t came from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
Joe Healy said IFA, with the support of a number of key EU beef producing countries including France, Italy, Spain and Poland, recently wrote to President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker outlining the strongest possible objections on Mercosur and demanding that beef be definitively excluded from any agreement.
Standards and climate impact
The IFA President said the recent Brazilian meat scandal also shows that Mercosur countries are not capable of certifying product to a standard demanded by European consumers.
He said Brazil and other Mercosur countries consistently fail to meet EU standards on the key requirements of traceability, food safety, animal health and welfare controls and environmental standards.
Joe Healy said it would be an absolute contradiction of EU policy on climate change to for Europe to agree a Mercosur deal that increases beef imports and replaces sustainably produced EU beef with product from South America that has a much higher carbon footprint. He said, “It is well established that the growth in South American beef exports and particularly exports from Brazil has come about on the back of widespread destruction of the Rainforest in the Pantanal and Amazon regions.”