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Independent.ie

Saturday 3 December 2016

EU trade deal will hit beef sector

Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30

ICSA president Patrick Kent.
ICSA president Patrick Kent.

The Irish Government has been called upon to ensure that agriculture is not used as a "bargaining chip" in any new negotiations with South American countries.

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It comes as there appears to be renewed focus at EU level in striking a trade deal between Europe and the Mercosur countries including beef powerhouse Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.

The body representing meat factories, Meat Industry Ireland (MII), warned that a new push at Brussels level could have repercussions for the Irish meat sector, particularly beef, but also pigmeat and poultry.

"The Irish Government must ensure that the agriculture sector is not used as a bargaining chip in any new Mercosur negotiations," Cormac Healy, a director of MII, said.

The ICSA's president Patrick Kent warned of the dangers of signing up to any such deal that would open EU markets to greater quantities of lower price South American beef.

He said any deal that lowers or eliminates tariffs on South American imports will undermine the price of Irish exports to both the UK and continental Europe.

"It is hard to see what Ireland can gain out of a deal with the Mercosur bloc but it is abundantly clear that beef will lose," said Mr Kent.

Mr Healy said he could see no benefit to the Irish agri-food sector and he questioned the benefits to the wider economy.

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"Increased access to the European market for lower price South American beef, pigmeat and poultry meat will undermine the Irish livestock and meat sector," he said.

The ICSA said Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton must outline how he intends to protect Irish beef, while MII said they would be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister.

A department spokesman said access to the EU beef market was a sensitive issue for Ireland and they would defend Ireland's economic interests. The department said they would work closely with the Agriculture Minister and EU Commission to get the best deal should negotiations on the Mercosur resume next year.

Meat and livestock exports are worth €3.6bn a year.

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