Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has said reports that the European Commission will reopen discussions for an EU – Mercosur trade deal with South American countries is a very worrying development for Irish beef farmers.

It is reported that the EU Commissioner for Trade will this week table proposals to Member States ahead of formal discussions with Mercosur countries in May, including tariff quota concessions on South American beef entering the EU market.

Deputy Ó Cuív said, “Irish farming organisations have highlighted that allowing South American beef into the EU could see Irish beef prices fall by 30%. An analysis by the Commission indicates that a Mercosur deal would result in losses of €7.8bn on the EU agriculture sector with beef farmers taking a big hit to their income.

“Ireland exports over 90% of our beef to the EU market. Any potential deal would represent a direct threat for continued market share for Irish produce. The threat of a new tariff rate quota from South American countries will result in high-value steak cuts being imported from the region, which would have a negative impact on EU beef prices.

“A Mercosur deal also has the potential to undermine EU climate change policy with a large volume of South American beef entering the EU market from less carbon efficient food production methods. Equivalence of standards must apply to any imported beef into the EU.

“It is vital that Ireland and other like-minded countries make it clear at today’s EU Council of Agriculture meeting that any trade discussions cannot undermine European and Irish beef farmers.”