Find out why farmers protested outside the EU Commission in Dublin this week and why the EU offer to Mercosur is bad for farmers and consumers.
Why did farmers protest outside the EU Commission Office in Dublin?
The EU is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the Mercosur trading bloc – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
As part of negotiation process, the EU proposes to offer the Mercosur countries access to the EU for an additional 70,000t of beef.
This new 70,000t preferential market access quota involves a reduced tariff rate of only 7.5% and includes 35,000t of fresh beef and 35,000t of frozen beef. The offer also includes 78,000t of poultry.
This would be extremely damaging for Irish and EU farmers and consumers.
Why is the offer to Mercosur bad for farmers?
To allow the proposed volume of beef on to the EU market would have a severe impact on Irish and European farmers. Beef was taken off the Mercosur deal agenda a year ago for that reason, but now a very similar offer is being made in circumstances where EU and Irish agriculture have even more to fear with the uncertainty around the impact of Brexit.
Last year, an EU Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) report showed that the European beef sector is very vulnerable to trade deals involving significant tariff reductions and increased access for beef imports to the EU market.
The analysis showed that, in these circumstances, beef imports from Mercosur would rise dramatically and the overall impact on EU beef prices could be as high as 16%, costing the European beef sector €5bn annually.
In Ireland, due to our higher level of exports, it is expected that this impact would be proportionately higher, potentially costing an estimated €500m to €750m.
Why is the offer bad for consumers?
Brazil and other South American countries completely fail to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, food safety, animal health and environmental controls. There have been a litany of scandals around the failure and refusal of Brazil to meet EU standards, with the most recent ‘Weak Flesh Scandal’ unearthed last March.
The latest EU FVO (Food and Veterinary Office) report covering the Weak Flesh meat scandal and cor-ruption in Brazil confirms that the Brazilian authorities seriously misled the EU Commission, and cannot guarantee European consumers that meat products exported to the EU have been produced in accord-ance with EU requirements.
The report completely undermines any credibility to the arguments being made in the Mercosur trade negotiations that Brazil will ever meet EU production standards on beef and other meat imports.
Is Ireland the only EU country opposed to the deal on beef?
No – Ireland is one of 11 EU member states objecting to the offer on beef.
Does South American beef already have access to the EU market?
Yes – South America already has huge access to the EU market. Beef from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay countries already accounts for 246,743t or 74% of all EU beef imports each year.