The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) is pushing to have meat removed from the proposed trade deal between Europe and South America in the wake of Brazil's meat scandal.
The move could scupper the entire trade deal given the importance of the meat industry to South America.
The EU has so far suspended imports from 21 meat-packing plants in Brazil that are under investigation for bribing health officials to forgo inspections and overlook practices including processing rotten meat.
The controversy, which involves the country’s top meat exporters, including JBS – parent of Craigavon-based Moy Par – has rocked the meat industry in Brazil, the world’s largest beef and poultry exporter.
The IFA and other European farm lobby groups, which have been campaigning for a full EU ban on Brazilian meat, have now called for meat to be removed from the EU's proposed trade deal with Mercosur, the South American trading bloc, which includes Brazil.
Chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee Czeslaw Siekierski is expected to raise the issue at a plenary session of the parliament on Monday.
IFA national livestock chairman Angus Woods said the controversy represented a major lesson for the EU Commission in terms of allowing imports from countries which fail to meet EU standards.
“It is clear from the flesh meat scandal that the production systems in Brazil fail to meet EU standards and as a result meat imports from Brazil should not be accepted into the EU,” he said.
Mr Woods said the Brazilian scandal should be regarded as a major setback for Mercosur talks and further access for Brazilian exports to the EU.
Inspectors accused of bribery
Brazil’s federal police have accused more than 100 people, mostly inspectors, of taking bribes in exchange for allowing the sale of rancid meat products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect meat-packing plants.
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis met Brazil's agriculture minister Blairo Maggi in Brazil last week and emphasised "how it did not help the Brazilian authorities to try to downplay the seriousness of the issue".
Mr Andriukaitis also hinted that the current restrictions and stepped-up checks on Brazilian meat imports were unlikely to be removed anytime soon. “The situation of meat imports from Brazil will remain under these reinforced checks until Brazil answers our questions and after our forthcoming audit team visits Brazil,” he said.
“The situation will be much clearer in a few weeks or months. The main message to Brazil is that this issue is not closed. It is about health and quality,” he said.
While he said it was not up to the EU to say what inspection system a country should have, Mr Andriukaitis urged Brazil’s government to introduce more transparent rules that avoid public-private conflicts of interest.
The EU ranks as the number two importer of Brazilian meats, just behind Hong Kong and before China, buying $1.7 billion in frozen and fresh beef, chicken, pork and other meat products last year.
Additional reporting Reuters