‘Deep alarm’ has been expressed at progress on a Mercosur trade deal between the EU and South America, which includes proposals for a tariff rate quota for beef.
ICSA president Patrick Kent has said its worst fears are beginning to crystallise with a proposal which he says would be utterly disastrous for the beef sector here.
According to Kent, a tariff rate quota implies thousands of tons of tariff-free South American beef ‘flooding’ the EU market which will be devastating for Irish beef exports.
“I am calling on the Minister for Trade Richard Bruton to immediately make strong representations that Ireland will not accept beef being sold out for a deal which will have a very dubious upside for Ireland.
“Minister Bruton needs to clarify very publically that he is not willing to see Irish beef sacrificed.”
“Irish beef cannot be expected to compete on European markets with South American beef which is produced to a very different standard, where environmental damage is ignored and where labour standards and pay conditions are totally different. Import tariffs provided some balance, so any proposal to undermine these will be disastrous and the impact on Irish exports would be serious.”
The ICSA is also calling on the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan to do everything in his power to fight for the EU beef sector with his Commission colleague Cecelia Malmstrom who is handing the Mercosur negotiations on behalf of Europe.
“It’s not just Irish farmers who will be affected; it’s all EU beef farmers. What is the EU for, if it is not for supporting a viable agriculture sector in Europe?” Kent said.
The Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has said that he has repeatedly raised Irish concerns at EU level in relation to the potentially serious impact that a Mercosur deal would have on the Irish and EU agriculture sector and, in particular, on the beef sector.
Responding to questioning on the issue in the Dail this week, he said the Commission’s own analysis of the worst case scenario would see production levels drop by some 150,000t, with the producer price for beef falling by as much as 8%.
Ireland, he said, is unique in that it exports over 90% of its beef production to the EU, and the entry of a very competitive player such as Mercosur would, therefore, have a potentially damaging impact on our market.