Beef carcasses© Tim Scrivener

European farm leaders have described it as “incomprehensible” that the EU may be willing to offer South American trading bloc Mercosur a tariff rate quota (TRQ) of 70,000t of beef.

The EU Commission presented a draft proposal to member states on 28 September which suggested it could offer access to 70,000t of hormone-free beef and 600,000t of ethanol as part a potential trade deal.

The next round of official negotiations is due to take place in Brazil from 2-6 October.

See also: EU pressured to remove beef from Mercosur trade talks

However, given the level of opposition to the proposals expressed by key member states, it is not yet clear whether the draft proposal will be presented during the talks.

‘Devastating’

Representatives of Copa and Cogeca have warned the move would devastate the EU beef sector, growth and jobs in rural areas and undermine EU food safety standards.

Jean-Pierre Fleury, chairman of the organisation’s beef working party, said: “It is incomprehensible that the EU Commission has put beef in its market access offer to Mercosur when investigations into the Brazilian beef scandal have not been completed.

“The amount we are talking about is equivalent to 1.7 million suckler cows in the EU and would result in 40% of high-value cuts that do not originate from the EU being consumed.”

Irish market

Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of European farmers’ organisation Copa and Cogeca, said the effect of Brexit on the European market was not yet known, so now was not the time to propose further market access.

“With 45% of Irish beef destined for the UK market, we cannot start to think of putting further pressure on the EU beef market in a trade pact with the Latin America countries.

“Ethanol must be excluded too and we have serious concerns about orange juice, fruit and vegetables.

“We already import substantial volumes from these countries and get no reciprocity from them.”