IFA seeks meeting with Taoiseach over beef plan

The country's largest farming association has sought an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach amid growing fears for the beef sector following the Mercosur deal Beef Plan.

IFA seeks meeting with Taoiseach over beef plan

The country's largest farming association has sought an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach amid growing fears for the beef sector following the Mercosur deal Beef Plan.

The controversial agreement, if ultimately ratified, would see 99,000 tonnes of beef from South America imported into Europe, with farmers here saying it could ravage an Irish beef industry already facing the threats posed by Brexit.

The Irish Farmer's Association has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the deal and the unhappiness of farmers here with it.

IFA President Joe Healy said the deal also "flew in the face" of efforts to limit the effects of climate change, arguing that the energy-efficient way in which Irish beef is produced contrasted sharply with how beef is produced in South America.

"It is three years since Brexit and you can see all the uncertainty it has caused," he said. "This will cause further uncertainty as well."

Mr Healy said it could be between five and eight years before the full impact of the deal is felt and that not all hope had been abandoned in terms of stalling it.

"We have written to the Taoiseach today requesting an urgent meeting with him this week and our man in Brussels is having meetings over there," he said.

"At this stage it is trying to limit the damage."

One person in the firing line over the deal is EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, and Mr Healy said that while the former government Minister and done a lot of good work in his role in Europe, "this is not his finest hour".

In a statement Hugh Doyle of Beef Plan Movement called on newly elected MEPs to support its protests action against the Mercosur Plan.

"Beef Plan is calling for the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to clearly indicate that he will not support a nomination of Phil Hogan for reappointment to the role of Agriculture commissioner," Mr Doyle said.

Beef Plan is also asking for a statement from the Taoiseach to confirm if he intends to support a nomination of Phil Hogan for appointment to the role of Trade commissioner.

"To highlight the level of grave concern our members have for their livelihoods we will be protesting outside Dáil Eireann on Wednesday, July 10. Beef Plan consider that the ramifications of this ‘Deal’ for Irish Beef producers coupled with the considerable challenges already associated with Brexit warrants this course of action."

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed , have already expressed concerns over the deal.

Minister Creed said: “I am very disappointed that this agreement includes a significant Tariff Rate Quota for South American beef, at a time when the beef sector in Europe is facing significant uncertainty because of Brexit. We have made concerted efforts over a long period of time, to minimise the EU offer in terms of beef and while evidence of these efforts appears to have been reflected in the final offer, I am, nonetheless deeply concerned at the potential impact on the Irish beef sector. There may be some opportunity for other agri food sectors such as dairy and for the drinks industry, but we will need to examine the text carefully to assess the full impact.”

Minister Humphreys said: “It will take some years before this agreement comes into effect."

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