IFA wants Brazilian beef off trade deal menu

Farmers’ association reacts to news of fresh US embargo against South American state

  Rio de Janeiro state’s consumer protection agency, PROCON, inspecting meat products in the cold storage room at a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Getty Images

Rio de Janeiro state’s consumer protection agency, PROCON, inspecting meat products in the cold storage room at a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has stepped up calls to have Brazilian beef removed from any EU trade deal with with Mercosur, the South American trading bloc, which includes Brazil.

This follows the announcement of a US embargo on fresh Brazilian beef imports on health safety grounds.

The US halted imports from Brazil on Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, after a high percentage of shipments failed to pass safety checks.

The USDA had “recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market,” after increasing tests on Brazilian beef in March, according to a statement.

The agency raised scrutiny on Brazilian beef and ready-to-eat products as a precaution following an investigation into corruption involving Brazil’s health inspectors that targeted meat companies JBS, which owns Moy Park here, and BRF.

JBS, the world’s largest meat packer, declined to comment on the US ban. The USDA’s action threatens the reputation of meat from Brazil, the world’s top exporter of beef and poultry.

Reacting to the US decision, IFA national livestock chairman Angus Woods said the EU authorities had to take note of the decision and remove beef from any deal with Mercosur.

“Irish and European farmers will be rightly questioning how EU negotiators can continue to engage with the Mercosur countries given this decision by the USDA,” Mr Woods said.

He claimed Mercosur countries had consistently failed to meet EU standards on the key issues of traceability, animal health and welfare controls, the ban on hormone growth promoters, and environmental controls.

The proposed trade deal between Europe and Mercosur had been expected to include a more preferential tariff regime for beef imports from Mercosur countries.

However, European farmers fear they will be unable to compete with cheaper beef imports from South America, where the cost of production is significantly lower than in Europe.

The US move to block Brazilian meat is a turnaround for US agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, who warned in March that Brazil might retaliate if the United States halted beef imports. On Thursday, he said in a statement that “although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers.”

Additional reporting by REUTERS