The Government is awaiting the outcome of an impact assessment commissioned last year to inform its approach on the Mercosur trade deal, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
The impact assessment was announced in the wake of an agreement between the EU and the South American trading bloc struck in the summer of 2019.
The minister told a meeting of the joint Oireacthas agriculture committee that its results would be available “in the near future”. He stressed that there could be no situation where products not of a similar standard could enter the EU.
He was responding to questions from several TDs, including Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said there should be no need for an assessment of whether 100,00t of third-country beef will have an impact on the Irish beef sector as the answer was obvious. He said while the product itself might be equivalent, the production standards were not.
He said there needed to be greater promotion of Irish beef, particularly that originating from the suckler herd. Equating suckler beef with that from feedlots was “damaging for the image of Irish beef”, he said.
The minister felt that a needs assessment was required. He said it would help Ireland to argue its case at an EU level.
Irish beef was a “tremendous product” he said. He agreed that considerations on the equivalence of standards should not just be about the product itself but also the production standards, including its impact on the environment.
This would be a key consideration in the Mercosur agreement, he said.