'A Mercosur deal and hard Brexit would be a double hit for Irish beef' - Bord Bia chief

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia
Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A Mercosur deal coupled with a hard Brexit would be "an extraordinary double hit" for the Irish beef industry, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy has said.

While Ms McCarthy said that Brexit is an unequalled challenge, she said that a hard Brexit coupled with another trade issue like Mercosur would not be welcomed.

“We have always positioned Brexit as the biggest strategic challenge the industry has ever had to face and the scale of it and the focus of it is unequalled. Brexit combined with another challenge isn’t something to be welcomed,” she said.

“I wouldn’t predict the demise or otherwise of an industry but I would say it would be an extraordinary double hit for an industry if that was to happen particularly when you see that it is our beef industry that will be hit by this.”

Larry Murrin CEO of Dawn Farm Foods added that while Mercosur countries would be stiff competition he feels British customers would still favour Irish beef products over Mercosur due to our high quality standards.

“If Britain wishes to buy some South American meat it would require them to park their food safety regulations which they inputted so much over a forty year membership in the EU and would require them to put them on the shelf and turn a blind eye and ignore it. I don’t see that happening,” said Mr Murrin.

One senior official said this that this is "the closest to a Mercosur deal being struck as we've ever been at" after almost 20 years of negotiations.

Farming organisations continued to keep pressure on to prevent a deal that they have warned a 100,000 tonnes of beef Mercosur deal will be devastating for the Irish beef sector.

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IFA president Joe Healy called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to veto a bad Mercosur deal.

 "As it stands, the proposals are very bad and will seriously damage our beef sector. The Taoiseach needs to plant our flag in the ground and say Ireland will not go along with the charade of a raft of climate actions in Europe, while encouraging the destruction of rainforests in Brazil," he said.

Mr Healy claimed it was completely contradictory for Ireland to sign up to a deal that would bring in more beef from Brazil so soon after the publication of the Climate Action Plan.

"The Taoiseach says the Mercosur countries must comply with EU environmental standards. They don't, and both the Taoiseach and the EU Commission know this, because they have the evidence," he said.

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