A "double whammy" from Brexit and Mercosur threatens to derail Ireland's beef sector, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has warned.
mid reports that Europe is on the cusp of offering the South American bloc major concessions on beef imports into the EU to secure a trade deal, MII said such a move would leave the Irish beef sector "seriously exposed".
The ICMSA and IFA have backed MII calls for the Irish Government to block moves by the European Commission to complete the Mercosur trade deal.
The drive to secure a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur has gathered pace over the last month, with Commission officials pushing to conclude negotiations by Christmas.
EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker told the MEPs last week that concluding a trade agreement with Mercosur - which includes the beef exporting giants of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay - was now a priority for Europe.
Suggestions in Brussels of preferential access for a further 85,000t of South American beef, have infuriated farm leaders.
European farmers' organisation Copa and Cogeca chief Pekka Pesonen said the move would have a "catastrophic" impact on the EU beef sector, particularly as beef consumption is falling.
He said the EU was "not getting much in return" for opening up its market to cheaper South American imports, which he said could also threaten EU food safety and animal health standards. "We cannot continue to use this important European sector as the bargaining chip for other areas," Mr Pesonen added.
IFA president Joe Healy pointed out that Mercosur countries already have very favourable access to the European market, with the trading bloc delivering 74pc of all EU beef imports amounting to 246,000t every year.
Mr Healy said there could be no increase in import volumes or additional tariff rate quotas in any new offer in the Mercosur trade negotiations.
"The EU cannot make any new offer which will damage the EU beef sector by allowing the South Americans to cherry pick the high price EU steak market," the IFA leader said following a meeting with DG Trade in Brussels.
"The IFA made it very clear to the EU Commission that now is not the time for the EU to make a new offer on Mercosur with the threat and uncertainty of Brexit and the associated impact that the sterling exchange rate is having on the beef sector, as well as the scandal in the Brazilian meat sector," he added.
ICMSA president John Comer said a sweetheart deal for Mercosur would have "very serious repercussions for Irish beef producers".
"It is very difficult to see how Irish farmers, along with their EU counterparts, are expected to meet the most costly and exacting standards on food safety and environmental standards while the Commission negotiates on trade deals involving non-EU imports that do not even pretend to have similar standards," Mr Comer said.
Cormac Healy of MII said this week would be crucial in the wider farm lobby's continuing battle to halt the Commission's trade deal plans. "We are heading for D-Day this week or next, as the Commission make a push for a deal to be done," he said.
EU deal with South America could derail Irish exports warn farm leaders