Ireland wants an immediate ban on Brazilian beef imports into the European Union due to concerns that the country's produce does not meet the standards of the bloc, Irish farm minister Mary Coughlan said on Wednesday.
The EU will meet this week to examine how to tighten its import rules for Brazilian beef, probably in targeted restrictions rather than a blanket ban, European Commission officials said this week. "Today I have instructed my officials to call for an outright ban based on the information that is now being made available to the Commission on non-compliance (by Brazil)," Coughlan said. Experts from the EU traveled last month to Brazil - the world's top beef exporter - to investigate claims by farmers and members of the European Parliament that Brazilian ranchers did not meet the kind of standards required for EU farmers. For months, European farm groups have urged the Commission, the EU executive, to get tough with their competitors in Brazil for what they say are substandard conditions. Brazil's beef industry has strenuously denied the claims. Ireland has been at the forefront of these efforts, especially over issues such as the traceability and tagging of livestock. "Opportunities were given to the Brazilian authorities to provide the necessary requirements for the EU trade. That has not happened," Coughlan said. Coughlan, though was "not sure" whether the EU would agree to Ireland's request. Commission members will meet for discussions on a draft decision, with a vote to be taken by experts on Thursday. The EU is not expected to impose major restrictions on Brazilian beef imports and hamper trade flows. Brazil ships only about 26% of its annual beef production abroad, but is the world's largest exporter and accounts for 44% of sales on the world market. EU countries take about a fifth of Brazilian beef exports, roughly the same as Brazil's biggest foreign client, Russia.