The Ulster Farmers’ Union has raised concerns over the current trade deal being discussed between the European Union and Mercosur. UFU beef and lamb chairman Ray Elkin said: “The potential for a Mercosur trade deal is of great concern to the UFU, and could have a devastating impact on Northern Ireland’s beef sector in particular.”
The proposed deal, which is backed by the European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Trade commissioner Karl De Gucht, would likely see a reduction in tariffs on beef imports from Mercosur countries.
“The Mercosur trade deal has the potential to be extremely damaging to our livestock industry. Worryingly, we are hearing that initial estimates are showing that it could cost the EU beef sector over €10 billion”, said Elkin.
He added that in 2008 the EU imposed a ban on Brazilian beef and “the fact still remains that neither Brazil nor any of the other Mercosur members involved in the negotiations meet or comply with the same traceability, welfare and environmental standards required of EU farmers which add considerable cost to production”.
Elkin said that numerous EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspections in these countries have shown this to be fact. It would be totally unacceptable to allow beef produced at these lower standards to undermine and undercut the quality beef produced in the EU.
“It is not only Northern Ireland beef production which is under threat but the entire beef and sheep-meat processing sector which in 2009 had a gross turnover of £817 million and 3,335 full-time employee equivalents.”
The UFU will be discussing the issue with their UK union counterparts, as well as Northern Ireland’s MEPs in Brussels to highlight their concerns. The UFU will also continue to work with COPA, the EU farmers’ union, which the UFU is a part of, who remains firmly opposed to the proposals and is lobbying to have the deal stopped. COPA will release an impact assessment paper on a potential deal shortly.