Brazilian beef back in the dock as MEPs highlight traceability issues

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan

Martin Ryan

Renewed doubts about traceability and sanitary standards in the Brazilian beef industry have been raised in a new report from the European Parliament (EP) Agriculture Committee.

The findings look set to deal another blow to the already faltering negotiations on a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American nations which import over €40bn of EU produce per annum.

MEPs travelled to Brazil's main beef producing regions last month and their report highlights concerns about slaughtering standards.

"It became clear that Brazil does not have the same standards as EU producers," states the report.

"Unlike in Europe, where slaughterhouses are required to keep records of each individual animal slaughtered, this was not the case (in the slaughterhouse visited) where records are only kept of animals slaughtered in lots. As a result, while they can trace a batch of meat to one or more slaughter points in a single day, the meat cannot be traced back to the individual farm from where the animal originated."

Brazil is looking to export up to 100,000 tonnes of its beef to Europe under the proposed trade deal.

This is seen as a key bargaining chip which in return would enable Europe's big car producers gain tariff-free access to South American markets.

However, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has stated that Brazilian beef must meet EU standards before it can form part of any deal.

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"There will be no deal on Mercosur unless we are satisfied there will be good standards and that we will have a good sanitary and phytosanitary agreement," he said last month, adding that the EU needed to see "movement" on many of the demands made in recent negotiations with the South American bloc.

"There is no evidence that Brazil are serious about doing a deal at the moment because they are in election mode. So the ball is in their court."

In its report, the EP Agriculture Committee stated that: "Agri Members have on a number of occasions expressed trepidation as regards the sanitary and phytosanitary Brazilian standards in production following the recent tainted meat scandal.

"The Brazilian investigation into the scandal revealed that up to 30 companies had been selling contaminated meat on domestic and foreign markets. Sanitary permits and export certificates were falsified and federal inspectors bribed.

"This scandal has led to increased concerns that Brazilian sanitary measures are not up to European standards and the results of the Commission's own analysis through audit reports and SPS checks have raised alarm in relation to meat exports from Brazil."

Reacting to the EP report, the IFA's beef chair, Angus Woods, said that MEPs needed "to seriously question the credibility of continuing to negotiate with Mercosur when the Commission has absolute proof that Brazil fails to meet EU standards."

He said MEPs must act on this report in Parliament and demand that Trade Commissioner Malmström and Agriculture Commission Hogan withdraw agriculture and especially beef from the current Mercosur negotiations.

Mr Woods added that the EP committee had visited an agricultural group managing 520,000ha of land with more than 120,000 head of cattle which are intended for export to the European market.

ICSA president Patrick Kent said the report made it crystal clear that "beef can no longer be included in the Mercosur trade talks". Instead, the EU must endeavour to keep "unsafe and inferior quality South American beef out of Europe at all costs", he said.

"The Mercosur countries are failing to meet EU standards on the fundamental issues of food safety and traceability and there is no real prospect of the EU being able to impose these standards in South America," said Mr Kent.

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