Brussels is facing pressure over its decision to offer South American trade bloc Mercosur a tariff rate quota for beef as cross-party talks begin in Brasilia.
European farm leaders accused the EU of being “hell bent” on offering concessions to Mercosur, after putting a 70,000-tonne (t) tariff rate quota beef offer on the table as part of a comprehensive market access package.
France and Ireland are among 11 member states opposed to bolstering South America’s ability to export beef to Europe.
EU farm body Copa-Cogeca has been a vocal critic of the Mercosur trade deal for a number of years and warned it would “step up action” to stop what many have claimed is questionable meat coming from places like Brazil into Europe’s food chain.
Jean-Pierre Fleury, chairman of Copa-Cogeca’s beef working party, described the offer as “incomprehensible”, as a Europe probe on Brazil following the rotten meat scandal is still ongoing.
“Export certificates were falsified for ten years or more and veterinary requirements not complied with in Brazil. We have some of the highest food safety and animal welfare standards in the world and we cannot undermine these.”
If Mercosur decided to export 70,000t of beef to Europe, this would mean four in 10 high value meat cuts come from places outside the EU, warned Fleury. He said this would have a “devastating impact” on the beef industry and suggested rural jobs could be put at risk.
Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said: “With 45% of Irish beef destined for the UK market, we cannot start to think of putting further pressure on the EU beef market in a trade pact with the Latin America countries.”
Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy added: “The EU Commission are hell bent on making additional concessions to the Brazilians and other Latin American countries at a very high cost to Irish and European beef farmers.”