Farmers and Government authorities are collectively pushing the EU Council to take time to fully analyse the implications for agri-food producers before ratifying any Mercosur deal.
Farmer groups including IFA, ICSA and Macra na Feirme have urged the Irish Government to insist that the EU Council refuses any deal that would see Europe open up to further beef imports from Brazil and other South American states.
Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has kept EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan updated on Irish concerns. He has sought French support on the deal. The Government has also today co-signed a letter with France, Poland and Belgium, addressed to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the matter.
Minister Heather Humphreys has also formally written to Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.
Andrew Doyle, Minister of State of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, told the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meeting in Luxembourg that Irish agri-food interests would be damaged by a hasty Mercosur deal.
Mr Doyle also met with Department of Agriculture representative from other EU states, who shared Irish concerns in regards to imports from South America.
He met with counterparts from Poland and Hungary.
IFA President Joe Healy has urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to tell his fellow leaders at this week’s EU Council that Ireland will not ratify a bad Mercosur deal.
“The time for sending letters has passed,” said Mr Healy.
It’s now time for the Taoiseach to tell the other Member States that Ireland is not prepared to ratify a bad Mercosur deal. What is going on in allowing Brazilian beef into Europe, which has four times the carbon footprint of Irish beef, is hypocritical.
Mr Healy and IFA’s livestock chairman Angus Woods are travelling to Brussels to meet key officials and politicians “to stop them throwing the EU beef sector over a cliff”.
“As it stands, the proposals are very bad and will seriously damage our beef sector,” said Joe Healy.
The Taoiseach needs to plant our flag in the ground and say Ireland will not go along with the charade of a raft of climate actions in Europe, while encouraging the destruction of rainforests in Brazil.”
ICSA general secretary, Eddie Punch, said the proposed Mercosur deal runs counter to the position that Ireland and the EU are adopting on climate change. He said Ireland should support increased use of sustainable biofuels, produced from crops grown in the EU.
Eddie Punch remarked:
“It makes no sense to bring in more beef and other agricultural products from South America while pressing EU farmers to reduce emissions.
"Cutting down rainforests in South America and then blaming Irish farmers for climate change is illogical.”
Macra na Feirme president, Thomas Duffy, said that beef from Brazil and other unregulated sources is produced with a carbon footprint that is four times higher per kg than Irish beef. To import this beef contradicts Ireland and EU’s climate change goals.
“Allowing South American beef with its astronomical carbon footprint, lack of animal traceability and far lower environmental and animal welfare standards would make a mockery of not only requirements of Irish farmers but also Irish and EU commitments on climate change,” said Thomas Duffy.
Recent comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the wake of the European election, must be reflected in a clear message of rejection of any sell out of Irish beef farmers with lower sustainability and lower traceability imports.
“The clear lack of regard for environmental concerns in countries such as Brazil is illustrated by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to reduce protections for the Amazon.”