Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice believes the European negotiating team involved in the agreement as part of the Mercosur trade deal has totally betrayed Irish farmers.

In recent days, it was revealed that the volume of EU beef imports at preferential rates from the Mercosur bloc will increase by 99,000t over the course of five years as part of a wider trade deal. This bloc is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Reacting to the news, Deputy Fitzmaurice believes Irish farmers have been betrayed in favour of large car manufacturers based in mainland Europe.

He said: “Suckler and beef farmers in Ireland have been completely thrown under the bus as part of this agreement. With prices already at a low ebb, along with the challenges already posed by Brexit, farmers have a right to feel betrayed.

“This deal flies in the face of what the old EU stood for; community. This deal will devastate rural communities, particularly in the west of Ireland where suckler and beef farming are prevalent.

“As I have said time and time again, without farmers rural communities will die. There will be less and less young families; schools will close; shops will pull the shutters for the final time; and towns and villages will become deserted.

“It seems as if European negotiating team is willing to sacrifice the thousands of small family farms in Ireland in favour of the larger industrial sectors.”

Traceability and Quality

Fitzmaurice lamented the fact that Irish and EU farmers are beholden to such high quality standards in terms of traceability and safety, while measures are much less stringent in the Mercosur bloc.

Continuing, he added: “Farmers in Ireland take great pride in their work and thousands of them strive to meet standards under Bord Bia’s quality assurance schemes.

“Hours go into book work, planning, herd health plans and improving farming practices in general on farms throughout this country. Inspections are frequent, and stressful, but the majority of farmers pass with flying colours.

“Despite farmers here having to jump through all of these hoops, their livelihoods are now being threatened more than ever before by beef imports from South America.

“Just over two years ago, it was discovered that some of the largest meat processors in Brazil had been selling rotten beef and poultry. This was an international scandal, with senior government officials in Brazil even getting caught up in the fall out.

“Is it any wonder that Irish farmers are at their wits end when they hear that EU beef imports from countries such as this could increase over a five-year period?

“Europe is almost self-sufficient when it comes to beef, so it is beggars’ belief that the European Commission is allowing the increase to be a part of this agreement.”

Environment

Given the prevalence of discussions around climate change and the environment, Fitzmaurice believes the inclusion of this increase is detrimental.

“The Government just published its Climate Action Plan recently and here is their Fine Gael colleague Phil Hogan coming along to tell them that even more South American beef will be imported by Europe – despite the region already being almost self-sufficient.

“Where is the common sense in this approach? From one end, farmers here are getting hammered when it comes to the climate change debate – despite the many positive roles the sector already plays.

“On the other hand, the big wigs in Brussels are agreeing to increase imports of beef from across the Atlantic Ocean. What sort of carbon footprint will this beef have by the time it reaches a plate in Europe?

“As well as this, farmers in South America are felling large swathes of rainforests to expand their agricultural operations – while Irish farmers are continually being encouraged to plant forestry on their land. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Opposition

Concluding, Fitzmaurice called on: the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan; the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar; and all of Ireland’s MEPs to reject this agreement.

“Commissioner Hogan tried to downplay the impact this agreement would have on farmers here, but in reality the deal is mutton dressed as lamb.

“With the Irish beef sector already trying to cope with the challenges posed by Brexit, this deal with the Mercosur bloc could spell the end for a lot of Irish farmers.

“The €1 billion support package mentioned by Commissioner Hogan wouldn’t come close to counter acting the fall out that will result if this deal goes through.

“Farmers cannot be seen as helpless chicks in a nest, depending on morsels of food to survive. They deserve to get a fair price for their quality produce. But this deal with the Mercosur bloc would only send the beef price in Ireland into a further downward spiral.

“It is time for Varadkar and Hogan, along with our MEPs, to fight the corner for Irish farmers. I am also calling on Varadkar to hold a vote on the topic in the Dail chambers as soon as possible so that there can be no confusion surrounding our stance on this matter,” he concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565

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