All beef farmers are looking for is a level playing field

Stock image: PA
Stock image: PA

Viewpoint Margaret Donnelly

Farmers are coming under pressure from all angles and there's no sign of a let up.

The Mercosur deal has no good news for beef farmers, who are already facing potential wipe out from a hard Brexit.

Now they face cheaper competition on European meat shelves - all done, it seems, to ensure European consumers gets the cheapest food possible.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan appeared frustrated over the weekend that no one recognised his negotiating skills in securing greater access for the dairy sector into the Mercosur countries - 30,000t of cheese and 10,000t of SMP and 5,000t of infant formula to be precise.

That's great for the dairy sector, but a switch to dairying is not possible for everyone and does not solve all problems as Teagasc's Trevor Donnellan points out in his analysis of the Government's climate action plan (see page 13).

In fact, he says policies to encourage beef producers to exit production could end up increasing our overall agri emissions. Mr Hogan says that there's also some €1bn in compensation coming down the road in the case of market disturbance. There's no doubt about it, beef was put on the sacrificial table and that's okay in the eyes of our EU Commissioner, as Europe has gained in industrial sectors.

Beef farmers are being told trade is a two-way process and the access we've gained into Japan and Mexico for Irish beef will compensate for the Mercosur imports.

Let's not add insult to injury here - Irish beef exports last year to international markets, including the much-lauded US market, were 25,000t.

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Yes, that's 25,000t, while the UK took nearly 300,000t and the rest of the EU took around 200,000t.

The main market with growth potential is China, but let's not be fooled here - China has very little interest in our beef fillets or steaks.

The chances of Irish exporters being able to capitalise on new markets and to make up for losses in the European market are negligible.

Those premium cuts are the choice of UK and EU consumers. That's why Irish beef exporters have concentrated in these markets. And now these same consumers have the option of buying premium cuts at cheaper prices.

Compensation or market supports is not what Irish beef farmers want or need. And they don't want to be told that dairying is the way to go.

How about a level playing field?

Indo Farming

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