EU trade offer to South America 'completely unacceptable' for UK beef farmers

A UK farming union has said it is opposed to increased EU beef offer to Mercosur countries
A UK farming union has said it is opposed to increased EU beef offer to Mercosur countries

An attempt by the European Union to increase their beef trade offer to 99,000 tonnes from South American countries has been branded "completely unacceptable".

The Latin American trade bloc Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, is currently in talks with a trade agreement with the EU.

But UK farmers have blasted the talks, who say that the South American countries do not come close to matching the food safety, animal welfare or environmental standards which farmers comply with in the UK and across Europe.

They fear that the big increase in the amount offered by the EU from Mercosur countries with lower welfare standards could put their their livelihoods at stake.

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president, Barclay Bell, says that an attempt by the EU to increase their offer on beef to 99,000t in the EU-Mercosur trade talks is "completely unacceptable".

'Conceded far too much'

He said such an agreement would have a "devastating impact" on European beef production and warned that the UK beef industry is also at threat.

“The EU Commission has already conceded far too much to the South American bloc,” Mr Bell explained.

“There seems to be no regard for the impact on food safety standards or the economic impact on European farms. These countries have no interest in adopting European traceability standards.

“They do not comply with EU animal welfare standards and Brazil in particular has not dealt appropriately with a huge food fraud incident involving rotten meat.”


Mr Bell said the South American countries use "unsustainable" environmental practices in their food production.

Giving the EU's drive for a greener world, the union says it is "incredible" how it is going ahead with the trade proposals.

He said the whole situation "reeks of desperation". “Clearly the EU Commission is under pressure to do business no matter what the cost is,” Mr Bell added.

The trade deal may benefit other EU industries but the UFU has said these gains should not be at the expense of an industry that is the backbone of rural communities.

“Beef production has a crucial role to play economically, environmentally, and socially in the UK and right across Europe. Accepting imports from countries that do not comply with equivalent food production standards is nothing short of irresponsible,” the UFU president said.

The UFU has warned the EU-Mercosur negotiations must not set a trend that is considered acceptable by the UK government for any future trade deals.