The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), a staunch opponent of the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations with Latin American bloc Mercosur, has demanded Europe’s political elite “come clean” on the dark clouds surrounding Brazilian meat production.
EU trade commissioner Celia Maelstrom must “reject the environmental destruction, failures on food safety and animal welfare, and slave labour associated with Brazilian beef”, said IFA president Joe Healy.
His comments come after the negotiators-in-chief for the EU and Mercosur met in Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU, for informal talks at the start of December.
A flood of cut-price meat?
Irish farmers are strong opponents to a deal with Mercosur that would allow supposedly cheaper imports of South American beef onto the market. This, farmers fear, could outprice them. And IFA has been extremely vocal in its opposition to the deal. Recently, it disseminated a barrage of press releases criticising the EU for pushing forward with a deal that many EU farmers have claimed could harm local business.
In the latest rebuke, IFA said there was “bad blood” after the EU offered Mercosur a 70,000 tonne (t) tariff-rate quota for beef. This would allow the first 70,000t of South American beef to enter Europe on a lower tariff – or tax. Exports above the quota would face a substantially higher tax.
While tariff-rate quotas, or TRQs, are used to protect domestically important products, the IFA is annoyed that a concession has been made to South America.
“It is a total contradiction of European policy that Commissioner Maelstrom is now willing to cut a deal for more beef imports from Brazil and sacrifice sustainable production in Europe,” Healy said.
EU farm body Copa-Cogeca said the beef deal was “too generous” and “not acceptable”.
The 30th round of official negotiations between the two parties concluded on 27 November. Sandra Gallina, agri-food and fisheries director at the Directorate General for Trade, led talks for Europe; Brazil’s chief negotiator was Ronaldo Costa Filho, director of the country’s Department of Foreign Trade Negotiations.
Mercosur is made up of four South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Neither the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC) nor the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) could be reached for comment at the time of writing.