Irish beef farmers expect Ireland’s MEPs to be resolute in their opposition to the Mercosur trade deal as they assume their positions in Brussels, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has said.

ICSA beef chair John Cleary has said he is “appalled that the European Union (EU) seems to favour importing large volumes of beef from South America rather than incentivising European farmers to address any production shortfalls”.

The EU’s projected 2% growth in beef imports from Brazil and other South American countries in 2024, as indicated in a recent outlook report published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in the UK, poses a serious threat to the Irish beef farming sector, he said.

Reduced production

The AHDB report also notes a 3.9% decrease in EU beef production in 2023, with a further projected decline of 2.3% in 2024.

Cleary said that while this reduced production has somewhat supported better prices for farmers, easing the pressures from increased costs over the last 24 months, the situation remains precarious.

“Ireland exports €2.7bn worth of beef annually and for the EU to gradually erode and undermine our industry while our own Government stands idly by is beyond comprehension.

“Irish farmers adhere to stringent environmental and animal welfare standards, ensuring top-quality beef production. However, this commitment comes at a significant cost.

"For Irish farmers to remain viable, consumer demand for our beef is crucial. Competing with products produced at nearly half our costs is the last thing we need,” he said.

The ICSA beef chair said that “we can proudly proclaim Ireland's ability to produce beef with a carbon footprint approximately one-third that of South American countries".

“However, until action is taken on the numerous economic challenges currently facing Irish farmers, the situation will not improve. Brussels can no longer ignore these warning signals.

"The new parliament must prioritise its own farmers first and foremost and take necessary steps to ensure the viability of local beef producers, rather than choosing the easier, cynical route of continuing with greater levels of imports.

“In this regard, Irish beef farmers will also expect all our Irish MEPs to be resolute in their opposition to the Mercosur trade deal as they assume their positions in Brussels,” he said.