Farmers protest over EU beef 'sell out' to South American countries

Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers were in Dublin this morning over the EU Commission’s proposal to offer Brazil and other South American countries further access to the EU market for beef and poultry as part of the Mercosur trade negotiations.

The protest outside the EU Commission offices in Mount Street in Dublin comes as European negotiators presented their farm trade offer to South America’s Mercosur bloc on Tuesday as part of talks for a trade pact they hope to complete by the end of this year

IFA President Joe Healy said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intervention with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the Mercosur issue was welcome.

However, the Taoiseach’s focus on common standards will not deal with the issue.

“It has been clearly demonstrated again in the Brazilian 'weak flesh' scandal that commitments from Brazil on standards have no credibility," he said.

"We need to focus on the level of EU market access being offered. Now is the time for the Taoiseach to show real mettle and ensure that our beef sector is not sold out by the Commission,” he said.

Joe Healy said, “Given the uncertainty around Brexit, no offer whatsoever should be made at this time. The EU Commission should be showing more concern for EU farmers and rural Ireland. The future of the suckler herd is at stake and we intend to send a strong message to the Commission that this sell out is unacceptable”.

The Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay had previously said an offer without beef in particular could not lead to a deal.

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Last week, 11 EU nations led by France and Ireland proposed postponing the farm trade offer to Mercosur until rules can be agreed to avoid unfair competition.

Brazilian officials expected the EU offer to include an annual import quota of up to 70,000 tonnes of beef and 600,000 tonnes of ethanol, which they said was disappointing because it was less that the EU put on the table in 2004, when the quotas were 100,000 tonnes of beef and 1 million tonnes of ethanol.

Brazil’s FPA congressional agriculture caucus, which groups more than 200 lawmakers aligned with agribusiness, expressed concern over the lower ethanol and beef quotas and higher tariffs than had been hoped for.

President Luis Miguel Etchevehere of Argentina’s powerful farm lobby, the Sociedad Rural, who was in Brasilia for the business forum, said the numbers, if true, were paltry.

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