IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns has said that the potential damage to the Irish beef sector from the current negotiations between the European Union and Canada on a free trade deal could be very costly.
Henry Burns called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Minister for Enterprise and Trade Richard Bruton to ensure that the important beef sector is not sacrificed in these free trade negotiations. He said the Canadians have made it clear that they want to access to the European market for steak cuts, which would damage the market, cattle prices and farm incomes.
The IFA Livestock leader said in the last major trade negotiations the European Union gave away up to 45,000 tonnes of the high value EU stake market in preferential imports to the USA.
Henry Burns pointed out of the total 8 million tonne EU beef market, high value steak cuts account for only about 560,000t. ”While steak cuts only make up a small percentage of the carcase volume, they can account for up to 40% of the carcase value. Any increase in the volume of stake imports would have a disproportionate negative impact on European beef prices.”
Henry Burns said the policy being pursued by the EU to cut trade deals which involve increases in beef imports will damage commercial beef production in Europe, EU beef prices and quality beef production from the suckler herd in countries like Ireland, France and Spain.
“Increased beef imports will have a damaging economic, environmental and social consequence across rural communities in Ireland and Western Europe that depend on livestock production for their livelihoods.”
The IFA Livestock leader that thousands of tonnes of beef imports into the EU also fail to meet European standards on the critical issues of individual identification and registration, environmental, animal health and food safety standards.
Henry Burns said the Irish beef and livestock sector is critical to economic recovery in rural Ireland. The beef sector is worth €2 billion to the economy, with exports of 500,000 tonnes and live cattle exports of 200,000 t0 300,000 head and employs over 120,000 people including farmers.