The IFA is protesting this morning outside the EU Commission offices in Mount Street in Dublin. The protest is over the EU Commission’s proposal to offer Brazil and other South American countries further access to the EU market for beef and poultry as part of the Mercosur trade negotiations.
IFA President Joe Healy said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intervention with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the Mercosur issue was welcome. However, the Taoiseach’s focus on common standards will not deal with the issue. “It has been clearly demonstrated again in the Brazilian ‘weak flesh’ scandal that commitments from Brazil on standards have no credibility,” he said.
We need to focus on the level of EU market access being offered. Now is the time for the Taoiseach to show real mettle and ensure that our beef sector is not sold out by the Commission.
Joe Healy said, “Given the uncertainty around Brexit, no offer whatsoever should be made at this time. The EU Commission should be showing more concern for EU farmers and rural Ireland. The future of the suckler herd is at stake and we intend to send a strong message to the Commission that this sell out is unacceptable”.
He said the Taoiseach, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and the EU Commission know well that Brazil and other South American countries completely fail to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, food safety, animal health and environment.
The IFA President said it is a major mistake for the EU Commission to make this offer at this time of an additional 70,000 tonnes of beef and 78,000 tonnes of poultry given the huge uncertainty over Brexit and the ongoing scandals in Brazil over their failure to meet EU standards.
He said, it is incredible that, despite strong objections from 11 EU member states, led by Ireland and France, the EU Commission is hell bent on making additional concessions to the Brazilians and other South American countries at a very high cost to Irish and European beef farmers. “Beef was taken off the agenda a year ago, and now a very similar offer is being made when circumstances for EU agri-trade, in particular for Irish agri-trade, have even more to fear with the impact of Brexit.”
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the Mercosur countries already have too much access to the European market, with up to 74% of all EU beef imports – amounting to 246,000t (carcase weight equivalent) every year.
Angus Woods said the Commission is way too lenient with Brazil and others over their continuing failure to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, food safety, animal health and the environment. He said the fact remains that the EU relies on the Brazilian authorities to certify beef imports and the record shows that they are not capable of meeting EU standards.
In relation to the current offer of access for 78,000 tonnes of poultry meat from the South American countries, the IFA Poultry Committee Chairman, Nigel Renaghan, said this would undermine not only indigenous European poultry production, but also, all other meat producing sectors.
IFA Pigs Committee Chairman Tom Hogan said any offer in the Mercosur talks that included pigmeat would undermine the already unstable European pig production sector. “Pig producers compete on a global pitch and this pitch needs to be level. European pigmeat is produced to the highest welfare and environmental standards. There are major question marks over standards in some of the South American countries.”