Chairing the EU Commission Civil Dialogue Group on Beef in Brussels, IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the Committee worked through a number of critically important issue for Irish beef and livestock farmers at the meeting.
The main items addressed at the meeting included cattle prices; imports/exports; CAP 2020 proposals and direct payments; EU import standards and Brazil; trade negotiations including Mercosur and the USA; and Brexit.
Angus Woods said the EU Commission presented a very detailed analysis of the EU beef market, highlighting the market difficulties from increased slaughter numbers related to the drought across the EU during the summer. Total EU production for 2018 is up 2%, with heifer output up 7.7% and cows up 3.9%.
He said the prospects and forecast for 2019 are more positive with reduced production and a more stable market and price environment.
IFA made a strong case on the need for cattle prices to increase as the income situation on farms is not sustainable with prices currently below the costs of production. The importance of a strong live export trade to Turkey was emphasised.
The details of the CAP 2020 proposals were outlined to the meeting with the EU Commission DG Agriculture recognising how important direct payments are to livestock farm incomes. The IFA highlighted the damage to livestock farm incomes from the cuts to direct payments under the Ciolos reforms, saying ‘there can be no cuts to direct payments for livestock farmers under the Hogan reforms’. IFA made it very clear that the CAP Budget must be increased.
At the EU Commission meeting, Angus Woods said the IFA raised the failure of Brazil to meet EU standards on the control of residues and contaminants in beef including the controls on veterinary products. He said the recent report from the vets in the European Food and Veterinary Office has stated the Brazilian ‘competent authorities are not in a position to reliably certify that the guarantees required by the relevant export certificates are complied with’. In practice, Angus Woods said this means that the EU Commission cannot rely on Brazilian certification of beef exports to the EU market.
Angus Woods said on the Mercosur trade negotiations, the IFA raised the lack of coherence between the EU CAP policy and EU trade policy. He said the Commission strategy of increasing beef imports against the backdrop of Brexit and poor beef prices was fundamentally flawed and would seriously undermine the production base, especially the suckler cow herd.
On Brexit, Angus Woods said the meeting concluded on the critical need for stability on beef and a positive outcome to the negotiations. He said the view of the meeting was for a longer transition period and a backstop.