The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is pushing to have meat removed from the proposed trade deal between Europe and Mercosur in the wake of Brazil’s meat scandal. The move could scupper the entire trade deal given the importance of the meat industry to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
The EU has so far suspended imports from 21 meat-packing plants in Brazil that are under investigation for bribing health officials to forgo inspections and overlook practices including processing rotten meat.
The controversy, which involves the country’s top meat exporters, including JBS has rocked the meat industry in Brazil, the world’s largest beef and poultry exporter.
The IFA and other European farm lobby groups, which have been campaigning for a full EU ban on Brazilian meat, have now called for meat to be removed from the EU’s proposed trade deal with Mercosur.
Chairman of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee Czeslaw Siekierski is expected to raise the issue at a plenary session of the parliament this Monday.
IFA national livestock chairman Angus Wood said the controversy represented a major lesson for the EU Commission in terms of allowing imports from countries which fail to meet EU standards.
“It is clear from the meat scandal that the production systems in Brazil fail to meet EU standards and as a result meat imports from Brazil should not be accepted into the EU,” he said. Mr. Woods added the Brazilian scandal should be regarded as a major setback for Mercosur talks and further access for Brazilian exports to the EU.
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis met Brazil’s agriculture minister Blairo Maggi in Brazil last week and emphasized “how it did not help the Brazilian authorities to try to downplay the seriousness of the issue”.
Mr Andriukaitis also hinted that the current restrictions and stepped-up checks on Brazilian meat imports were unlikely to be removed anytime soon. “The situation of meat imports from Brazil will remain under these reinforced checks until Brazil answers our questions and after our forthcoming audit team visits Brazil,” he said.
“The situation will be much clearer in a few weeks or months. The main message to Brazil is that this issue is not closed. It is about health and quality,” he said. EU ranks as the number two importer of Brazilian meats, just behind Hong Kong and before China, buying US$1.7 billion in frozen and fresh beef, chicken, pork and other meat products last year.