Beef farmers ‘could lose €25bn’ in EU deal

Beef farmers across Europe could lose as much as €25bn (£21.5bn) if plans to reduce trade barriers between the European Union and South America go ahead, farm lobbyists have warned.

EU farmers’ organisation COPA-COGECA said the EU’s beef sector faced “total collapse” if a trade deal to give the Mercosur group of South American countries preferential access to EU markets was agreed.

In a study on the impact of the trade deal, COPA said the Mercosur countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay would export more than 1m tonnes of high-quality beef cuts, worth about €16bn (£13.7bn). Further costs of €9bn (£7.7bn) would be incurred due to the indirect effects on the price of beef in Europe.

The EU poultrymeat sector would also be hit, with losses of €6bn (£5.2bn) as a result of the agreement, COPA added.

Highlighting further concerns, the study says there are misgivings about traceability, movement and disease controls and food safety standards among the Mercosur members.

It also claims the trade deal would make it difficult for the EU to reach its targets to reduce carbon emissions.

The report came ahead of the next round of EU-Mercosur negotiations, scheduled to take place in Brussels later this month (14-18 March). Negotiations began again last year after previous attempts to agree a trade deal collapsed in 2004 and 2006.

The EU Commission has admitted Europe has more to gain from increased access to South American markets for things like telecommunications, financial services and cars, but stands to lose from agricultural imports.

Previous trade estimates had suggested EU agriculture could lose out to the tune of €3-5bn (£2.6-4.3bn) if a deal was struck along the lines of what was on the table when negotiations originally faltered in 2004.