The trade deal between the European Union (EU) and the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur 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.
Speaking about the EU-Mercusor Trade Deal, Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food Pippa Hackett said:
“This deal has been on the cards for some time, and unfortunately does not come as a great surprise”
“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.”
Note to the editor:
- In a briefing note on the cattle industry, Brussels based environmental NGO Fern detailed some of the devastating impacts of cattle ranching in Mercosur countries: it is responsible for 80 per cent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as forest loss in the Paraguayan part of the Gran Chaco, the second largest forested zone in South America.
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