The proposed trade agreement between the European Union and United States could cost Irish beef farmers more than £35m a year, according to an economic report.
Known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), the agreement is currently undergoing scrutiny and amendments.
The report commissioned by Irish enterprise minister Richard Bruton, concluded that although overall Irish agriculture exports could rise by 3% or €270m (£196m) the beef industry would fare badly.
The independent study, carried out by Copenhagen Economics, showed the beef sector stood to lose up €50m (£36m) a year due to increased competition from cheaply produced US beef.
The Irish fear the Americans are likely to seek a lifting of restrictions on its beef exports to Europe as a sweetener for allowing European beef back into the US.
The current trade arrangements limit the US to exporting about 30,000t of beef into Europe before a tariff kicks in.
Farmers’ groups have reacted angrily to the report.
Irish Farmers’ Association president Eddie Downey said the report identified “very negative impacts for Ireland’s vital beef sector, which the government must ensure are addressed in any final agreement”.
Mr Downey said that when agricultural imports from the US were factored in the Copenhagen Economics report, overall gains for the Irish agriculture sector were marginal.
“Our government must guard against selling out our vital beef and white meats sectors for potential gains in other areas that may not materialise,” said Mr Downey.
In a clear warning to the government, the IFA president said that they must immediately get involved in the negotiations to ensure that the threats to the beef pork and poultry identified from a TTIP deal are addressed with limited tariff reductions, quantities allowed in and most importantly that equivalence of standards apply in any deal.
Irish Cattle and Sheep Association president Patrick Kent said: “It is completely intolerable that the beef sector would be hung out to dry for the benefit of other sectors.
“We are now calling on minister Bruton and EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström to guarantee that the beef sector will be protected under the proposed agreement.”
Ireland exports about half a million tonnes of beef each year, 90% of its beef output, which is worth about €2bn (£1.4bn).