EU is 'committed' to a Mercosur deal: Hogan
But farm leaders warn that 'ultra-cheap' South American meat imports pose serious threat to Irish beef sector
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has confirmed that the European Union remains committed to a deal with the Mercosur trade bloc, but farm leaders have warned it will open the "floodgates to ultra-cheap" South American beef.
Concerns have been rising in recent days about the impact the proposed deal with South American producers will have on Ireland's €2.5bn beef industry which depends on EU markets for over 90pc of its exports.
The draft proposal from the EU involves 78,000t of beef, including 39,000t of high value beef cuts on a low tariff rate quota of 7.5pc.
Thirteen member states, including Ireland, France, Austria and Poland, have warned the Commission that a deal with the South American alliance would have a "ripple effect" on all ongoing trade negotiations.
A joint statement highlighted the "particularly difficult crisis" facing European agriculture and stated that a deal centred on increased quotas for "sensitive products" like beef would be seen as a provocation by EU countries.
However, Commissioner Hogan told yesterday's EU Farm Council meeting that a study on the effects of all ongoing and upcoming trade negotiations involving EU agriculture was underway.
He said the Commission remained "committed" to the Mercosur process but was "also determined to defend and promote the EU's interests" in the negotiations which were crucial for European agriculture.
"It is essential that we convey a consistent message towards Mercosur. While the EU is ready to make a meaningful contribution in agriculture, Mercosur should moderate its expectations to what is manageable and acceptable to the EU," he said.