IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin has called on EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to urgently intervene and prevent an exchange of offers on a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur countries of South America.
He said a Mercosur trade deal is unequivocally negative for Irish and European agriculture, and would particularly damage Ireland’s important beef sector. In addition, he added that pursuing a Mercosur trade deal would undermine the political credibility of EU/US negotiations on the TTIP.
Jer Bergin said a Mercosur trade deal, which could result in the EU market being flooded with cheap beef from South America, is totally unacceptable. He said, “Production standards in South American countries such as Brazil fail to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, animal health and welfare controls, the ban on hormone growth promoters, and environmental controls”.
He said an EU Commission analysis shows that a Mercosur deal would inflict losses of €7.8bn on the EU agriculture sector and he added that the real losses at farm level would be much higher, particularly for beef farmers. This would have a knock on effect in rural economies and lead to job losses.
The IFA Chairman said the European agricultural policy environment has changed dramatically since the trade discussions with Mercosur were first launched as far back as 1999. He said the abolition of milk quotas last year has resulted in the expansion of the EU dairy herd, which is posing additional challenges for the beef sector. On climate change, he said the work of EU producers in reducing the carbon footprint of the livestock sector cannot be thrown overboard by importing large volumes of beef produced on the back of widespread destruction of the rainforests in Brazil.
Jer Bergin said, “Ireland’s beef production is based on environmentally sustainable grassland production systems, which are between two and four times more efficient than South American production in terms of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). It would be a total contradiction of EU climate change policy for Europe to agree a Mercosur deal that displaces sustainable EU beef production with product from South America, which has a much higher carbon footprint”.
Jer Bergin said EU beef consumption has fallen by over 500,000t since 2010, in a market where cheap grain has increased the consumption of pig and poultry meat. The European market cannot absorb large volumes of imports without a very negative effect on prices and farm incomes.
The IFA National Chairman called on Commissioner Hogan to insist on a new impact assessment of a Mercosur Trade deal for European Agriculture before proceeding with any discussions. In addition he said Commissioner Hogan will have to secure guarantees that agriculture and particularly our sensitive beef sector will be fully protected.