'Crunch time' in EU-Mercosur trade negotiations

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Ahead of resumption of the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations this week, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy has said now is ‘crunch time’.

According to the IFA, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, "must stand up to EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom against her sell-out to the Brazilians on beef in the negotiations."

Mr Healy said: “This week is the real test. Commissioner Malmstrom has already conceded way too much in the giveaway of an additional 70,000t of EU beef market access. Now the Brazilians want more. Ireland and Commissioner Hogan need to say bluntly: enough is enough.”

Mr Healy accused the EU Trade Commissioner from Sweden of undermining European policy and values on the environment and animal welfare: “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.

“How can Commissioner Malmstrom ignore the fact that the growth in Brazilian beef exports is driven by the destruction of the Amazon rainforests? The carbon footprint of a kilo of Brazilian beef is four times that of EU production. Brazil has 226m cattle to Ireland’s 6m. There are no controls on animal welfare in Brazil. Slave labour is widespread in rural areas and in the beef sector.”

The IFA president said European consumers want food that is produced sustainably, is safe and healthy, protects the environment, helps fight climate change, respects animals, is fair to farmers and is produced in the EU. 

He said Brazilian beef is not sustainable in terms of its failure to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, food safety, animal welfare and the environment. “The weak flesh fraud highlighted again the food safety issues with Brazilian meat, where there are little or no controls on the use of hormones, drugs and beta-agonists which are all banned in the EU.”

With Brexit threatening the export market for beef to the UK, Mr Healy said it is lunacy for the EU to be considering a deal which will involve increased beef imports into the single market at this time.

The IFA said its officers around the country have been lobbying their political representatives this weekend against a bad Mercosur trade deal.