Pressure is mounting on the European Commission not to make any further concessions on beef to the Mercusor group of South American countries when trade talks resume next month, writes Ray Ryan.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed recently stressed that he and his officials have been active in highlighting the potentially very damaging effects of a Mercosur deal on European agriculture and on the beef industry in particular.
He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raised the matter in the course of recent meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
No agreement on a deal has been finalised although the commission did make an offer to Mercosur during the October round of negotiations which included a tariff rate quota (TRQ) for beef.
“I was deeply disappointed that the commission decided to submit this beef TRQ offer, as I believe that this could not be coming at a worse time for the EU beef sector,” he said.
Mr Creed said there is a need for continued vigilance in relation to the conduct of these trade negotiations.
“I will continue to insist that they are handled appropriately, and in a manner that safeguards the interests of the Irish and European beef sector,” he said.
Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy said an analysis had shown that increased imports from Mercosur would affect EU beef prices by up to 16%, at a cost of €5bn a year. “Due to our export dependence, the impact on Ireland would be greater, potentially costing between €500m to €750m.”
Mr Healy said Irish and European farmers are required to meet the highest food safety and environmental standards in the world.