Farmers say beef at risk in global trade deals

Beef farmers’ livelihoods will be under threat if the EU agrees to accept extra beef imports from countries with lower standards, the ICSA has claimed.

ICSA president Patrick Kent said beef farmers could be “hung out to dry” due to EU participation in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks.

He said alarm bells are ringing and the Government needs to take a hard line to defend beef farming.

“All of these deals have the potential to flood the EU market with lots of extra beef imports from countries with lower standards.

"The risk of conceding huge extra quotas of tariff-free beef can’t be under-estimated. As Ireland is the major beef exporter in Europe, we stand to lose more than any other EU state,” said Mr Kent.

Mr Kent attended a meeting in Brussels last week, organised by the Farm Europe think-tank.

The meeting was briefed by Paolo De Castro, MEP, a member of the EU parliament agriculture committee, and by former senior DG agri official Joao Pacheco, now a senior fellow at Farm Europe.

“The beef sector is the loser in all trade deals; it is the potential cumulative impact of several trade deals that spells real peril for Irish beef,” said Mr Kent.

ICSA wants the Government to gain guarantees that Europe will deny access to beef which is produced at a lower standard, and that the volume of beef covered by tariff rate quotas (ie not paying the normal import tariff) is minimised to reflect the fact that the EU beef market does not have any surplus demand for beef.

Meanwhile, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership potential threat to beef farmers is also the theme of a conference today in Templepatrick, Co Antrim, of farming organisations from across EU and north America.

The debate is part of the North American-EU Agricultural Policy Congress. It is first time the event has been held in Northern Ireland, and is hosted by the Ulster Farmers Union.

The union welcomed Canada’s reopening of its market to EU beef imports, ending a ban imposed since 1996 due to BSE fears.

The union wants the British government to do more to secure greater access to global markets. Chief executive Wesley Aston, said he regards potential US beef imports into Europe as the biggest threat to Northern Ireland under a trade deal.

“Red meat is at the very heart of the agri economy here in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Aston.

“We export the vast bulk of the beef we produce to Great Britain and the rest of Europe. It is crucial the final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement does not harm the prospects of livestock farmers in this part of the world.”

Nonetheless, Mr Aston does note that the right deal could benefit northern beef exports.

“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will almost certainly become a reality at some stage in the not- too-distant future.

"The EU has recently agreed a comprehensive trade deal with Canada. So it makes strategic sense for Brussels to look at securing similar arrangements with the United States.”


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