World Meat Congress: trade slams 'negative' EU

The European meat industry has hit out at EU agriculture bosses for failing to paint a more positive picture of the sector at the World Meat Congress.

Representatives from the French industry were said to be “incensed” by comments made by Lars Hoelgaard, deputy director general of the EU’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Developments, during the event in Buenos Aires.

Hoelgaard told delegates that beef production in the EU would continue to “play a diminishing role”, sheepmeat production was not going to be sustained and the EU would require increased exports. He also questioned if the trading bloc could maintain poultry production. While he said the EU continued to hold its own on pigmeat production, it would increasingly become a net importer on beef, sheep and poultry products.

However, the comments caused anger among some European delegates, who said it gave the impression the EU was turning its back on agriculture. Laurent Spanghero, president of the UECVB, the trade association for European meat processors, said Hoelgaard’s presentation would simply discourage the industry. He said: “He said in front of the whole world that our knees are bending and that soon we’ll be on our knees.

“We have to have some message to give producers some confidence back. Rather than talk about more and more decline, they should be doing something to encourage the sector. They’re always thinking about reducing support, rather than thinking creatively about how they can support the sector.

“Even the Argentines, who have serious problems, have managed to find positive things to say about their industry. We shouldn’t just be talking ourselves down all the time.”

He added that EU leaders were too obsessed with the memory of food mountains and over-production, and the fear of a repeat of that was discouraging support of a more positive vision for the sector.