Today marked the day an IFA led protest against Mercosur takes place on the streets of Dublin, as reported by us here.
The protest began this morning at approximately 11am outside the buildings of the office of the European Commission in Dublin. It saw cattle and farm machinery being brought onto the Dublin Streets and roads as farmers look to have their voices heard. The protest is against a mercosur trade deal as Ireland’s beef farmers look to protect themselves. It was also against the EU’s plans to buy 70,000 tonnes of beef as part of said trade deal with the Mercosur bloc.
The protest comes after the European Commission proposed that a Tariff rate Quota be introduced on beef as part of trade negotiations with the Mercosur countries. The proposal was flatly objected to by Ireland and 10 other countries within the EU.
Farmers are also concerned over the farm and meat processing standards in countries like Brazil and Argentina, which were proven lately to be well below EU standards. This they feel allows imports to be sold cheaper than home produce, thus creating serious competition for farmers.
President of the IFA, Joe Healy, was in attendance today and urged the Taoiseach and Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to work with the European Commission to ensure the future of the beef sector. There are fears the sector will be exposed as a result of any Mercosur trade deal.
Mr. Healy stated that any commitment made from Brazil on standards lacks credibility. He said the focus needs to be shifted to the level of the EU market offered. He says now is the time for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to show his true colours and prevent the beef sector being sold out to the Commission. He added that in lieu of Brexit, the EU should be showing greater restraint with regards any such trade deal with Mercosur.
Healy also added that with the current cloud of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, that no offer should be made. He said more concern should be given to EU farmers and rural Ireland than any such deal. He concluded by stating that the future of suckler farming in Ireland is now at risk and he says the IFA will relay a strong message to the Commission that any deal is unacceptable.
Reports today also suggest that Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, has written to the Commissioner for Trade, outlining the difficulties he feels any Mercosur deal would create within the Irish beef sector.
An Taoiseach and Gerry Adams have their say:
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke today at the Dáil and said no trade deal which harms Irish agriculture and the agri-food sector would be ratified. He also slammed Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin, who he says is having it both ways on EU issues.
Gerry Adams said the proposed deal adds to the economic threat from Brexit. He said all farmers and organisations are right to oppose any such deal, adding that beef and poultry should be removed from any negotiations.
An Taoiseach did agree however, with the concerns over higher standards on food processing and animal welfare within the EU. He also warned that Ireland would not ratify any deal if the country’s best interests are not taken into account. He concluded by saying we need to remember that free trade deals means free trade for all sectors.