IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin this week wrote to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to express serious concerns about the engagement between EU and Mercosur negotiators in Brussels this Friday and the imminent exchange of offers between both sides.
In his letter, the IFA Chairman highlighted the damaging impact a Mercosur deal would have on the Irish and EU agriculture sector. He called on the Taoiseach to make immediate contact with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to request that the negotiations do not proceed any further and that there is no exchange of offers, in particular on sensitive products.
Jer Bergin said, “A Mercosur trade deal would be unequivocally negative for Irish and European agriculture and would particularly damage Ireland’s important beef sector.
“The European agricultural policy environment has changed dramatically since the last market access offer was made by the EU in 2004. The abolition of milk quotas last year has resulted in the expansion of the EU dairy herd, which is posing additional challenges for the beef sector. Previous analysis by the European Commission has shown that a Mercosur deal would inflict losses of €7.8bn on the EU agriculture sector. The individual losses at farm level would be much higher, particularly for beef farmers. This would have a major knock-on effect on rural economies, resulting in job losses.
“Production standards in South American countries, such as Brazil, fail to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, animal health and welfare controls, the ban on hormone growth promoters and environmental controls.”
On climate change, Jer Bergin said the work of Irish and EU producers in reducing the carbon footprint of the livestock sector cannot be undermined by the importation of large volumes of beef from unsustainable production systems associated with widespread destruction of the rain forest in countries such as Brazil,
He said, “It would make a nonsense of EU climate change policy for Europe to agree a Mercosur deal that displaces sustainable EU beef production with product from South America, which has a much higher carbon footprint.”
The National Chairman said EU beef consumption has fallen by over 500,000t since 2010. The European market cannot absorb large volumes of imports without a very negative effect on prices and farm incomes. He said a new impact assessment of a Mercosur trade deal for European agriculture is urgently required and should be discussed in both the Council of Ministers and European Parliament before proceeding with any further Mercosur negotiations.