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Farm groups warn beef threatened by 'unfair' trade deals

Tipperary Star reporter

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Farm groups warn beef threatened by 'unfair' trade deals

The ICSA's position that trade deals currently under negotiation are almost uniformly disastrous for beef and also damaging to the sheep sector has been vindicated in a new study, according to its president Patrick Kent.

He was commenting on the findings in a study carried out by the Joint Research Centre of the EU Commision study, Cumulative Impact of Future Trade Deals on EU Agriculture.

“Politicians who have been cheerleaders for trade deals really need to read this report and then reflect on what they are supporting,” he said.

Mr Kent said that we had just seen the consequences in the USA for politicians who had been dismissive of the people impacted most by globalisation.

“A similar pattern will emerge here if the EU Commission, supported by EU politicians, allow our beef farmers to become the EU equivalent of the automotive workers in Detroit,” he warned.

The farm leader said that his association had consistently stood against the “disastrous” trade deals being negotiated by the EU Commission because it had always said that the impact offered no positives for our livestock sector.

Mr Kent pointed out that the ICSA was the only farm organisation to be 100 per cent against trade deal sell outs because its members carried all the costs.

“The study forecasts an increase in beef imports of 146,000 tons under the most conservative scenario and up to 356,000 tons under the more ambitious scenario. The modelling estimates a reduction in beef price in the range 8 to 16 per cent. This is alarming in itself, but as an EU average, it masks the potentially devastating and uneven impact on Ireland as a country particularly exposed due to its high beef exports,” said Mr Kent.

The ICSA president said that report did suggest, however, that most of the production decrease will be even stronger in specialised beef production.

In other words, countries such as Ireland where the suckler herd accounted for almost half will take the brunt of the adjustment and therefore the impact will be much greater than the EU average price fall of up to 16 per cent, he said.

“Interestingly, the study also suggests that any gains for the dairy sector will actually further exacerbate the impact on the beef sector,” said Mr Kent.

On sheepmeat, he said that the study showed there would be a negative impact from a possible 10 per cent increase in Australian imports with prices down 2 to 3 per cent.

Overall, the report paints a picture of farmers on a global scale running faster to stand still, trying to outdo each other with ever lower prices while multinational retailers and processors grab more and more of the benefit. This report must surely serve as a wake-up call to the pro-free-trade politicians, said Mr Kent.

“All decision makers need to reflect on the fact that a 1 per cent gain to GDP from the turnover of multinationals is not remotely comparable to a 1 per cent loss in GDP from losses in the agriculture sector. Better outcomes for multinationals deliver little by way of trickle down to ordinary people, and as we have seen, little in terms of tax receipts.

“On the other hand, the beef and sheep sectors impact on every parish, village and county in Ireland and any loss of turnover will be multiplied in terms of the hit on local businesses,” said Mr Kent.

Meanwhile, IFA National Livestock chairman, Angus Woods described the study as a “major wakeup call” that clearly showed the damage to the important beef sector from a liberalised trade negotiation.

“The report shows that the value of EU beef production could be reduced by €8bn, with producer price falling by over 15 per cent, in future trade agreements,” he said.

Mr Woods called on the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan to use the stark findings in the report to redouble his efforts against trade deals that would be bad for beef and Irish and EU agriculture.