Farm group Copa-Cogeca has warned agriculture must not pay the price in trade negotiations with the Mercosur bloc, which includes major beef exporters Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
“Any trade deal between the EU and the Latin American trade bloc Mercosur must be fair and balanced,” warned Martin Merrild, president of Copa.
“We cannot accept double standards. There will never be fair competition between the EU and Latin America as they do not produce under the same conditions or meet the same standards. Imports to the EU must meet the same level of safety controls.”
Ever since EU-Mercosur free trade negotiations resumed in 2010, concerns have been repeatedly raised around what implications European firms would face if cheap South American beef was imported.
This is a huge concern for Ireland. It exported 535,000 tonnes of beef worth approximately €2.38 billion in last year, according to Irish food body Bord Bía, and organisations have expressed concern over Mercosur.
Earlier in September, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Joe Healy warned EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan that Brexit uncertainty and the Brazil meat scandal meant now was not the time to negotiate with South America.
Rumours have it that an EU offer on Mercosur to include beef is imminent, something Healy said “poses a very serious threat”.
IFA national livestock chairman Angus Wood added: “There is no room in the EU beef sector for additional imports or concessions to Mercosur.
“EU beef consumption is down over 20% in the last decade. Concessions in Mercosur will have a devastating impact on farmers, our quality suckler cow herd and lead to job losses in rural areas.”
For the first time since inter-country talks resumed, Mercosur and the EU exchanged preliminary deal offers in May 2016. A negotiation followed this six months later.
Talks in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, will take place between the two parties between 2 and 6 October 2017.