The European Commission must ensure there is a level playing field for farmers in trade deals, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
He specifically cited “the environmental sustainability of production systems in the EU and in our trading partners”.
“Irish farmers and the entire agri-food sector are playing a real leadership role when it comes to our climate, environment and biodiversity.
“What we cannot have is a product that is being produced at lower environmental standards to those upheld by the world-class Irish farmers entering European markets. We need to tread carefully in this space,” he said in Brussels this Monday at the AgriFish Council of Ministers.
Minister McConalogue called on the European Commission to ensure robust commitments on environmental compliance regarding the Mercosur agreement and the ongoing discussions on the Australia agreement.
“I need to reiterate the importance to Ireland and to the European Union of trade, which offers new market opportunities for our farmers.
“We must comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) requirements and ensure balanced trading opportunities.
“However, we must have a clear line of sight on what the impacts are on the Irish agri-food sector, especially for our farm families,” he said.
Referring to the situation on European agriculture markets, the minister noted the need to consider issues over the longer-term.
“In particular, we need to see how we will take forward the issues raised in the Commission communication on fertiliser to seek medium and indeed a longer-term solution.”
The minister also highlighted the important work of the Pigmeat Reflection Group, stating: “We consider that the recommendations on research and innovation are very important. It is important that end-users are involved in research and we must accelerate knowledge transfer to farmers.”
Commenting on the discussions on the Nature Restoration Law proposal, Minister McConalogue stressed the need for better data to assist in the assessment and implementation of the proposal.
“Ireland continues to assess the impact of this complex proposal nationally. However, there are potential significant challenge associated with it. It is clear that it gives rise to many challenges from the perspectives of agriculture, forestry and the marine, not least in the context of the need to ensure food security as well as protecting our farm families and supporting rural and coastal communities,” he said.