Farmers oppose EU move to 99,000-tonne Mercosur beef offer

EU farmers opposed this week’s EU move to raise an offer on beef imports to 99,000 tonnes at low import tax rates, in trade talks with the Mercosur trade bloc, writes Stephen Cadogan.

“We need fair and balanced trade agreements which also ensure that our market is not oversupplied, otherwise growth and jobs in our rural areas will be threatened,” said Jean-Pierre Fleury of Copa and Cogeca, representing EU farmer organisations and agricultural co-op organisations.

His warning came as the EU Trade and Agriculture Commissioners Cecilia Malmstrom and Phil Hogan met mercosur representatives in Brussels, saying they were in the final stretch of talks to agree an ambitious EU-Mercosur trade agreement, “a win-win for growth and jobs for both sides”.

But Copa and Cogeca Beef Working Party Chairman Mr Fleury said, “Over 75% of our beef imports, 246,000 tonnes, already come from these countries, and it is unacceptable that the EU has increased its offer in return for concessions in other sectors.

“Now is not the time to propose this, when we do not know the impact of the talks of the exit of the UK from the EU.

“With 52% of Irish beef destined for the UK market, we cannot put further pressure on the EU beef market in a trade pact with the Latin American countries.”

“The Commission’s own reports also show that they have not been able to respect the EU’s phytosanitary rules”, said Fleury.

“Trade must be minimised too for sugar, poultry, ethanol, rice and orange juice imports to the EU. We already import huge volumes from these countries and get no reciprocity from them. We urge Member States to act before the end of the negotiations”, said Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen.

- IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said he is extremely worried that Trade Commissioner Malmstrom, who is a Swedish politician, is prepared to sacrifice beef to get more for big business and big car companies like Volvo from Sweden.

He called on irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan to stand up to Commissioner Malmstrom’s sellout to the Brazilians on beef.

“Commissioner Malmstrom has already conceded way too much in the giveaway of an additional 70,000t of EU beef market access.”

Mr Woods said, “There is a clear contradiction at EU level. One arm of the Commission is prepared to do this deal and undermine the environment and animal welfare, while European farmers are asked to play their part on climate change and maintain the highest welfare standards.”

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