The President of ICMSA has said that the reported EU Commission offer of a 70,000 tonnes beef quota to the South American Mercosur trade bloc has to be seen as representing the sacrifice of the EU beef sector in general and the Irish beef sector in particular. Mr. John Comer said that the 11 countries that had stood against the offer must now band together and make it plain to the Commission that the reported offer cannot proceed, he said that the Irish position was the most vulnerable with in excess of 50% of all our beef going to a UK market about which there was little or no certainty after 2019. He described the idea that Ireland could even entertain the notion of 70,000 tonnes of South American beef arriving into the EU at precisely the same time as we would be losing our UK market as nothing less than madness and were the deal to proceed it had to be seen, according to Mr Comer, as a conscious decision on the part of the Commission’s to sacrifice the EU’s beef sector as a quid-pro-quo in an overall trade agreement
Economics aside, the ICMSA President said there were the most serious questions about how this proposal would facilitate an expansion of the South American beef sector which he said was already notorious for its non-existent commitment to environmental considerations and sustainability and also for – certainly in the case of Brazil – repeated breaches of the most fundamental standards of food safety. It was hypocritical, at the very least, of the Commission to be pressurising EU farmers on the questions of Nitrates and publicly discussing how overall methane emissions might be reduced while ‘Green Lighting’ an import quota with a beef sector that was absolutely unbothered by either question and whose chief concern was how to clear forest and ‘move’ indigenous peoples so that their lands could be pressed into the most rapacious form of beef production. The negligence – indeed, complicity – of elements of the Brazilian authorities charged with maintaining the safety standards of their beef was a matter of record and it could only be a matter of time before the next – and possibly most dangerous – health threat to consumers emerged from such an atmosphere.
It was now time for Taoiseach Varadkar to intervene – possibly in conjunction with President Macron – in a manner that made it plain to the Commission that proceeding with this trade deal before the final details of the Brexit deal were decided upon and published was unacceptably reckless and that – even the ‘other side’ of a final Brexit deal – it was not possible to contemplate a deal for South American beef under Mercosur that completely sabotaged the EU’s indigenous beef sector in the manner that this proposal most assuredly did.
Ends 3 September.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office