The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has welcomed calls for sustainability requirements to be embedded in EU agri-food trade deals.

Eight member states, led by France and including Ireland, are said to be pressuring the European Commission to build in environmental and sustainability targets to a proposed trade deal between the EU and Australia.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the intervention suggests that the “sustainability penny may have finally dropped” and that while it was a very long time coming, it is better late than never.

“It is a hugely positive step that this group of eight member states – unsurprisingly led by France – are now pushing the Commission to hold those we trade with to the same standards and ambitions that the Commission is so happy to impose on its own farmers,” he said.

The ICMSA chief contended that the same approach should be taken with all of the EU’s prospective trading partners on the basis of “set and verifiable sustainability targets”.

Beef imports

McCormack said the Irish interest in the EU-Australia trade deal would focus on the terms and conditions being applied to EU beef imports.

He described it as “regrettable” that only eight member states are seeking sustainability requirements in EU trade deals and that the Commission has not yet indicated that it would implement their position.

There should be environmental and sustainability targets embedded in any proposed trade deal between the EU and Australia, says the ICMSA.

“All this change in approach will do is require of those entering into trade agreements with the EU to have a similar commitment to sustainability that can be measured and verified.

“To be honest, we would think that that is the very least that the EU should be insisting on. If the members of the club must meet these standards of sustainability, then surely traveling salesmen calling to the club trying to sell us something should be meeting the same standards.

“That has not been the case and it was at the French insistence that this obvious element was inserted in the consideration of Mercosur to the consternation of the South American exporters and the EU corporate retailers,” he said.

‘Pitiful prices’

The Tipperary farmer warned that these exporters and retailers were “all set to import vast quantities of rainforest-clearance beef from Brazil and so drive down the already pitiful prices they pay to EU farmers”.

“ICMSA thinks this is very encouraging and a significant sign that the EU is finally realising that there’s no point regulating the EU’s farmers out of existence for alleged lack of sustainability, while busily importing food from regions, states and trading blocks that are infinitely less sustainable by every measure and statistic,” said McCormack.

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