According to the NFU, the delays could come after the Mercosur bloc agreed to Venezuela’s accession, following the suspension of Paraguay. Venezuela has been a member of Mercosur since Monday, 13 days after an application was welcomed by founding members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
The NFU has said it is concerned about the current “bilateral discussions” going on between the EU and the South American trading bloc. According to the NFU, the discussions will “disproportionately affect the agricultural sector and beef producers in particular”, which has led to the NFU urging negotiators to “proceed with caution”.
European farmer organisation Copa-Cogeca has put the cost of a deal on the EU agriculture sector at €13bn, with a loss of €3bn in value terms to European beef farmers.
The NFU said it “understands that any further discussions will now take place after the elections in Paraguay in April 2013 and may stall for longer.”
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe explained that the UK is a significant EU beef producer. He said: “The NFU still has real concerns that a deal with Mercosur would jeopardise our domestic beef industry by allowing cheap product, produced to lower standards onto the European market. Any delay in these negotiations is to be welcomed and we will remain watchful for any moves by individual members of the Mercosur bloc.
“In the meantime, we must make moves to put our domestic beef industry on a sustainable footing to capitalise on emerging world markets and meet the demands of the UK consumer. The NFU plans to address these challenges and outline a vision for the future of the beef industry with the launch of a new report at the Livestock Event on 4 September.”
Paraguay’s temporary suspension from the Mercosur bloc happened in June after its President was impeached, which allowed other members to push for Venezuela to join the group. The NFU has said that these factors, along with a more protectionist stance from Argentina, are likely to place added strain on EU-Mercosur talks, which have stalled over recent months.