Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Beef sector will be the big loser on trade deals

Sarah Collins

Published 22/11/2016 | 13:00

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy

Beef farmers will be the main losers in future free trade deals, an EU report has found.

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The long-awaited study into the effects of 12 future trade deals on agriculture found that EU beef imports could rise by 146,000 to 356,000 tonnes by 2025, pushing prices down by 8pc to 16pc.

The main reason is cheaper imports from the Mercosur bloc - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela - and, to a lesser extent, Australia.

There is good news for dairy, which could see price rises of 9pc to 16pc by 2025, largely as a result of cheeses and skimmed milk powder exports to Mercosur, Turkey, Japan and the USA.

EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan said last week that the finding should strengthen the EU's hand in trade talks and that other countries should "moderate their expectations" of the EU.

"This study certainly gives us a lot more ammunition in terms of any negotiations that we would have with countries like Mercosur," Mr Hogan told reporters in Brussels.

But Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said that position was "delusional, to say the least" and that the study was "damning for the Irish agricultural sector".

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Beef was removed from the EU's latest offer to Mercosur earlier this year, but not before it went public that the EU had been prepared to offer a quota of 78,000 tonnes - well above what it agreed in a recent deal with Canada.

"The message coming from Ireland is that the beef sector is no longer prepared to be the sweetener for trade deals, particularly for Mercosur," said Ireland's Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed.

France, Poland and several other EU countries have traditionally been sceptical of Mercosur, but even Germany and the UK expressed reservations this week after the report came out.

"It would be irrational, in my view, of the Commission to proceed with trade deals, particularly in the area of beef quota access to the European market, given what's contained in this report," Mr Creed said.

The Irish Farmers' Association said Irish beef farmers could suffer losses of up to €350m if the report's assumptions are right, affecting 100,000 cattle farmers across the country.

Meanwhile, Mr Hogan said Ireland should seek other export markets to offset the possibility of the UK imposing tariffs post-Brexit.

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