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Mercosur Demands "Simply Not Acceptable" - Smith

- Importance of the Irish beef industry "cannot be underestimated" -

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, has described the beef quotas sought by the Mercosur countries as "simply not acceptable."

Minister Smith said that the demands of the Mercosur countries would "certainly target the market for high-value and frozen beef and would seriously undermine Ireland's beef industry."

The Minister confirmed that the Irish Government and Irish Ministers have consistently "conveyed our serious concerns to the EU Commission about the possible impact of a trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur group of South American countries and, in particular, about the impact that any agreement would have on the Irish beef sector."

The concerns of the Irish Government have been raised, not alone with the EU Commission, but with various other Member States, in a series of bilateral meetings, as well as at the EU Agriculture Council.

Minister Smith said that he had urged the EU Commission to "proceed with the utmost caution and transparency and to make available to Member States and the European Parliament the detailed analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the anticipated outcome of the negotiations before any offers are made by the Commission.

While the Common Agriculture Policy ensures that EU beef is produced in a sustainable manner, with reduced carbon emissions, the same is not necessarily the case elsewhere and it makes no environmental sense for the EU to allow its production to be displaced by less sustainable systems."

The Minister said that the importance and value of the beef sector "cannot be underestimated.  In 2010, the value of Irish beef exports rose by an estimated 8 per cent to €1.51 billion and we are now in a position where 89 per cent of output is exported.  Some 98 per cent of exports went to important EU markets in 2010 and, across Europe, Irish beef is stocked in three or more of the top ten retailers in each major market and in over 70 retailers in total."

Date Released: 21 February 2011