Offaly politicians criticise EU-Mercosur deal as 'damaging' for agriculture

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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Offaly politicians criticise EU-Mercosur deal as 'damaging' for agriculture

Offaly politicians criticise EU-Mercosur deal as 'damaging' for agriculture

An Offaly TD and councillor have criticised the proposed beef trade agreement between EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and the Mercosur group of countries (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil).

TD Carol Nolan and Green Party councillor Pippa Hackett both came out against the deal which they see as potentially damaging to the climate and Irish farming.

Independent TD Carol Nolan has said the proposed beef trade agreement has "completely undermined Irish farmers faith in the long-term commitment of the EU to Irish agriculture."

Deputy Nolan was speaking as concerns continue to mount that the deal will "effectively make it impossible for the beef sector to survive in the event that the proposed 99,000 tonnes of South American beef flood the Irish market."

“This is a deeply alarming, and almost incomprehensible move by the EU Trade Commissioner given the scale of the damage it will inflict on Ireland’s beef sector," Deputy Nolan said.

"It also stands in stark contradiction to the alleged EU support we are receiving in terms of the Brexit beef plan package. This move will essentially make that plans support completely meaningless."

"The Irish beef sector and Irish beef farmers will not be the sacrificial victims offered up the Commissioner to push this through."

"We need a clear statement of strategy from the Government on we propose to obstruct its agreement, mitigate or halt its implementation."

"Yesterday we heard the Minister for Agriculture say we will have to build alliances with France and Poland to mitigate the Deal, yet today there are reports that the Taoiseach is saying the Trade Deal must be assessed in the round."

"This sounds very much like mixed messages at a time, more than ever before when the Irish farmer needs a unified front."

"We need to remind people that at the national level, suckler farmers play a key role in generating more than €2.4 billion in beef exports each year."

"At the local level, the point has been well made that for every €1 we provide to suckler farmers, more than €4 of economic activity is generated in local economies."

"This clearly demonstrates the potential damage that this awful Trade Deal will bring about if it is not effectively challenged,” concluded Deputy Nolan.

Recently elected Offaly councillor and Green Party spokesperson on Agriculture, Pippa Hackett said "the trade deal will have devastating consequences for the climate and Irish farming."

"The agreement opens an already saturated EU market to more beef imports, from countries where agriculture is a main cause of deforestation, while favouring the export of EU cars."

"The deal reveals how vulnerable Ireland’s farming sector has become and the Green Party are today calling for a radical overhaul of our agri-food policies, where the environment must be to the fore to future-proof our family farms."

“This deal has been on the cards for some time, and unfortunately does not come as a great surprise," Cllr Hackett added.

“Regrettably Irish beef producers are in a particularly weak position. Poor agri-food policies from successive governments, intent on following a model of commodity beef production for global markets, now sees us very exposed, with low beef prices, pressure from Brexit, and now this additional threat from the Mercosur trade deal. We are in unchartered territory."

“Suckler farming in Ireland is dominated by small family-owned farms, and it is simply not sustainable to pitch our small-scale famers against global giants. If we had done things differently, then Irish beef should be secure as a niche, high quality, high demand product, and this Mercusor deal should have no effect whatsoever. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and we are now playing catch up."

“A viable solution is needed, and simply demanding increases in factory price, or relying on bail outs from our taxpayers is short-sighted, and not a long-term answer."

“Premium-paying consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their food is produced and where it comes from, and they are demanding better environmental outcomes and improved animal welfare. At the moment, most consumers have no way of knowing if the beef they buy in their supermarket was pasture reared or grain fed, from a high biodiversity farm, reared by its dam, from a factory feedlot, moved multiple times from farm to farm, or how far it had to travel to be slaughtered. They all carry the same Bord Bía QA logo."

“The Green Party believes that if we address the environmental issues, then the price will follow. It’s time the suckler beef sector has a radical overhaul – from how we produce it, how we market it, and how we get it to the consumer. Not only will farmers reduce input costs as they move away from a reliance on synthetic inputs and high production costs, they will produce a better-quality product in the eyes of consumers, and one which will command a higher price."

“Substantial change is required in how we spend our taxpayer’s money on the agri-environmental schemes. If farmers can see the tangible benefits of farming closer with nature, then there is every chance they will continue to farm in this way. The current system is clearly not working for our farmers, so it’s time for change.”