THE President of Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Jackie Cahill, has stated that the trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, the South American Trade Block, looks likely to be finalised shortly and he said it will present ‘a real and substantial threat to Ireland’s national interests’ through its undermining of our agri-sector’s ability to raise export levels and ‘motor’ an economic recovery.
Mr Cahill described the likely agreement as a ‘baptism of fire’ for the new Minister for Agriculture, Marine & Food, Simon Coveney, who will attend his first Farm Council meeting this week.
Mr Cahill’s comments followed a meeting with the EU Commission in which Commission officials acknowledged that such a deal would damage the EU Beef Sector, in general, and the Irish Sector, in particular.
The Commission is of the view that some form of compensation package might be offered to offset the damage caused by mass imports of South American beef. The ICMSA delegation flatly contradicted the Commission’s opinions and they have called on Minister Coveney to reject absolutely the possibility of a fundamental change to the nature and scale of beef imports from South America.
“During the recent General Election all political parties rightly stressed the central role of the agri-food sector and its potential as a major contributor to national economic recovery. The Government and the Minister must now act and not allow the Irish Beef Sector to be pushed around and bullied into destruction as was the case with the Irish Sugar Beet sector,” stated Mr Cahill.
He continued, “The EU Commission admits that it will be difficult - if not impossible - to apply the same social and environmental conditions applied in Europe to beef imports from South America. But they seem determined to wave away those facts and rely on commitments that have previously been shown to be worthless.
“This is a major issue and exposes a compete flaw in the Commission’s approach to food production and food security. As part of the CAP reform negotiations now about to commence, EU farmers may be asked to take on additional environmental and climate change burdens, whereas South American beef exporters are to be given even greater access to EU markets without even meeting the standards we presently operate,” argued the ICMSA President, who went on to state that the question quickly boils down to a matter of political power and precedence.
“Who actually runs Europe? Is it the Commission or is it the Council of Ministers in conjunction with the European Parliament? The EU Commission, working on a 16 year-old mandate has decided that they hold the power and in exercising that power they ignore fundamental changes to trade, food safety and food security that have occurred over that period,” remarked Mr Cahill.
“The threat to our agri-exports is of the most serious nature as is the threat to animal and public health through wholly inadequate checks and testing and yet – here we go again – about to be bounced by the Commission into a deal that makes no sense in terms of Ireland’s economic prospects and wellbeing.
“We should oppose the Mercosur Deal with every ounce of energy we have, but if it does happen, we should insist – as an absolute deal-breaker – that South American beef imports meet exactly the same tests and regulatory requirements as Irish or Scottish beef. The Commission is going to shaft Europe’s Beef sector and we’re the most successful beef exporters within that sector. It’s really time that we started to draw some lines or draw some conclusions,” concluded Mr Cahill.