October 23, 2019

Mercosur trade deal would impact EU poultry production, poultry association official says

A trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur South American trade bloc could adversely impact the EU's poultry sector with the slaughtering of chickens falling to 300 million chickens less every year in the region, or six million less a week. 


That is according Birthe Steenberg, secretary-general of the association of EU poultry processors and trade.


"Poultry meat export is very important for Brazil and, therefore, the last-minute offer of an extra 90,000 tonnes (in total 180,000 tonnes) might have persuaded, especially the Brazilians, to get the deal done," Steenberg told EURACTIV.com.


A political agreement for a trade deal was reached between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil Paraguay and Uruguay) on June 28. This came after two decades fraught by several disruptions due to the sensitivities of European farmers.


The deal, which now has to go through the EU Council, the European Parliament and national parliaments, has sparked several reactions, especially from the EU agriculture sector.


"First of all, this is a political agreement. It still needs some fine-tuning but it's fair to say that its impact will be devastating on the European farming family model […] the net balance of this agreement is hugely negative. It's several billion euros in the negative, in the red," Pekka Pesonen, the EU farmers' union chief, said.


The trade deal allegedly exposes the EU's double standards, Pesonen remarked.


The bloc's market is also at the risk of getting "flooded with Ukrainian poultry meat" as a loophole in a free trade agreement with the country would grant it an additional 50,000-chicken quota, Steenberg said.


"...we are already importing far more poultry meat than the other meat species," she added.


"The main exporters of poultry meat to the EU are Brazil, Thailand and Ukraine. An extra factor is the consequences of Brexit. Until now, the EU27 exports quite a lot of poultry meat to the UK, and it is very uncertain what will happen with this export after Brexit," Steenberg said.


Some critics suggest that the EU poultry sector was sacrificed to "save" the bloc's beef industry, something the EU poultry association denies.


However, in a document dated 2017, EU member states accepted 70,000 tonnes of beef, which became 99, 000 tonnes at the end of the negotiation, while in the case of poultry, it doubled from 90,000 tonnes in 2017 to 180,000 in the end.


EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan was also said to have contributed to the protection of EU beef, specifically Irish farmers concerned that the EU will be overwhelmed with cheap meat from Latin America, a source said.


Hogan himself said that "the concession of a beef quota to the Mercosur countries is of understandable concern to Irish beef farmers. The Commission appreciates the sensitivity of the beef sector in Europe and, particularly in Ireland, which exports 90% of what it produces".


He added that there are also "safeguarding mechanisms" to mitigate the impact on EU beef.