Viewpoint: Mercosur deal poses a serious longterm threat to our beef sector
It appears that the long-running Mercosur negotiations have shifted up a gear.
So too have the very real concerns over the possibility of cheaper South American beef sitting on shop shelves throughout the European Union.
This would have a serious impact and lead to automatic displacement of European and Irish beef on shelves. With more than 90pc of Irish beef exported to Europe, Ireland will be hit first and hardest, as we are often second choice after domestic product in vital markets like the UK, France and Germany.
The figures involved have really set off the alarm bells. It emerged in recent days that the draft EU offer to the South American countries is based on a tariff rate quota of 78,000t of beef, including 39,000t of high-value cuts at a hugely discounted tariff rate of 7.5pc.
It would mean a significant amount of beef coming onto the European markets at a time when the markets are, at best, shaky.
It is not the first time that a deal with the Mercosur countries - including agri-powerhouse Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay - has been on the table.
Around eight years ago this type of deal was also up for discussion, but a number of factors came into play, with Brazil moving to concentrate on other markets such as Asia and Russia.
However, a 78,000t deal with low tariffs may be incentive enough for the South American exporters to put more efforts into negotiating EU regulatory hurdles this time around.