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Farmers 'angry' at Mercosur deal, says industry body
Published:  10 November, 2017

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has spoken out in opposition to plans to include beef in a deal with Latin American trade bloc Mercosur. 

The Union voiced concern following a Mercosur trade event, hosted by Jim Nicholson MEP in the European Parliament, claiming that such an arrangement would be a reckless decision. 

“Farmers in Northern Ireland and across Europe remain very angry that the European Commission continues to entertain the inclusion of beef within the Mercosur trade negotiations,” commented UFU deputy president Victor Chesnutt. “These are extremely reckless actions from the Commission and are putting the entire beef industry at risk. 

“Farmers across Europe produce beef to world-leading standards for traceability, animal welfare and food safety. Time and time again it has been shown that the Mercosur states cannot match these standards and this has been highlighted clearly by the recent scandal in Brazil. The continued failure of Brazil to address the concerns that have emerged from this scandal completely undermines any credibility there is in these negotiations and clearly highlights any acceptable level of dual standards.”

As reported by Meat Trades Journal’s sister site, GlobalMeatNews, police launched a large-scale investigation into Brazil’s meat processors earlier this year, with 33 government officials being suspended, three slaughterhouses closed and a further 21 placed under government inspection. Operation ‘Weak Flesh’ was launched after it was alleged factory workers bribed politicians and health inspectors for export and food safety approvals.

The potential Mercosur deal includes Brazil, alongside Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

“If the Commission continues to pursue the inclusion of beef in this deal there can be no doubt of the devastating impact this will have on the European beef industry,” said Chesnutt.

“This would have an unacceptable impact on family farms, the rural economy, the environment and rural communities.”

Chesnutt’s fears echo that of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, which last month briefed local MEPs about the potential risks if deals were poorly negotiated.

The threat of lower-quality meat has been rekindled, after it was reported in May that EU commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan said beef would no longer be part of the trade deal. Despite this, it appears authorities have placed red meat back on the negotiating table.