European farmers took to the streets of Dublin outside the EU Commission offices to highlight the potential “sellout” of the multi-billion-euro beef industry in trade talks with Mercosur. Concerns have been rising over discussions at EU level over the impact a deal with Mercosur would have on Ireland's €2.5bn beef industry, which depends on EU markets for over 90% of its exports.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA), which staged the protest outside the EU Commission offices in Dublin, described the offer coming from EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström as reckless concessions.
ICSA President Patrick Kent said the EU Commission has no mandate to push for a trade deal at such a huge cost to the European beef sector. He said they were particularly alarmed at the level of the tariff rate quota, which would see 78,000 tons of beef enter Europe at low cost.
There is also concern because this comes on top of potentially similar offers to the US under the separate Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal.
Mr Kent said the EU Commission must row back from a proposed deal with the Mercosur bloc of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay.
It comes as Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the country's meat processors, warned that demand for beef remained sluggish across the EU and the UK.
MII chair Philip Carroll said Ireland was particularly exposed to market volatility and it highlighted the need for as many international markets for Ireland's beef as possible.
”Worryingly, the EU Commission is instead intent on making an excessive offer in trade negotiations with Mercosur which will cause even further levels of uncertainty and instability in EU beef markets, where consumption has declined by 500,000 tons over the past few years.
Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said any offer on beef in a Mercosur deal would be reckless, as it would undermine the negotiating position on other trade talks, such as TTIP.