Mercosur seeking too much beef , says Smith
The beef quotas being sought by the Mercosur countries as part of the ongoing negotiations with the EU were "simply not acceptable", the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, has said.
Mr Smith said the Mercosur bloc (which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) would target the market for high-value and frozen beef and would seriously undermine Ireland's beef industry.
He said the Irish Government had consistently conveyed its concerns to the EU Commission about the possible impact of a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur and, in particular, about the impact that any agreement would have on the Irish beef sector.
The concerns of the Government had also been raised with various other member states in a series of bilateral meetings, as well as at the EU Agriculture Council, Mr Smith added.
While the Common Agriculture Policy ensured that EU beef was produced in a sustainable manner, the same was not necessarily the case elsewhere and it made no environmental sense for the EU to allow its production to be displaced by less sustainable systems, he maintained. "The importance and value of the beef sector cannot be underestimated. In 2010, the value of Irish beef exports rose by an estimated 8pc to €1.51bn and we are now in a position where 89pc of output is exported," Mr Smith pointed out.
Meanwhile, IFA president John Bryan met farm leaders from Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland at the NFU Conference last week to seek support for the association's stance in opposing the Mercosur trade talks.
Mr Bryan said there was broad agreement that any deal would be a disaster for European agriculture as it would have devastating consequences for the livestock sector.
"The Trade Commissioner, Karl de Gucht, cannot be allowed to sacrifice agriculture in order to secure a Mercosur deal at any cost. The gains from any deal are not at all evident," Mr Bryan said.