Belfast Telegraph

Impact of EU's Mercosur deal already felt in the Republic

Clarification: Phil Hogan
Clarification: Phil Hogan

By Margaret Donnelly

Farmers in the Republic have demanded answers from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the wake of a fall in beef prices as details of the Mercosur deal emerged.

The deal, which will see an extra 99,000 tonnes of beef from four South American countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay - gain access to EU shelves won't take effect for a number of years, but already its impact is being felt by beef farmers across the border.

Farmers in the Republic, already reeling from Brexit uncertainty, say the EU-Mercosur deal paves the way for an increase in imports of cheaper beef from South America and could cost them as much as €750m (£660m).

Irish EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan admitted over the weekend that the EU was on the defensive on beef in the negotiations. It came as members from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) took to a picket line outside meat processor Kepak's facility in Athleague, Co Roscommon, to protest over falling beef prices.

Factory quotes for beef were back 5-10c/kg (4-8p/kg) across the board yesterday morning, with prices for bullocks now ranging from €3.65-3.70/kg (£3.21-3.26/kg), while heifers are on €3.75-3.80/kg (£3.30-3.34/kg). Bull prices are back to €3.65/kg (£3.21/kg) for 'R' (very good) grades.

Farmers are also reporting that it's becoming increasingly difficult to get cattle killed.

Phil Hogan added a sweetener and clarification on what would happen should any country fail to meet its climate change commitments under the terms of the deal.

"We've secured for the first time in a free trade agreement, €1bn (£888m) in financial support, and common market organisation support in the event of a market disturbance when it's implemented. If president Bolsonaro of Brazil wishes to follow Mr Trump in pulling out of the climate agreement then this agreement falls," Commissioner Hogan maintained.

Farming organisations say the 99,000 tonnes of extra beef coming into the EU from South America will not just damage Irish beef farming, but also the environment.

Belfast Telegraph