According to the NFU further delays to the EU-Mercosur talks are inevitable after members of the bloc agreed to Venezuela’s entry, following the suspension of Paraguay. Venezuela has been a member of Mercosur since Monday, which is just 13 days after an application was welcomed by founding members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
NFU is concerned that the “bilateral discussions”, which are currently under way between the EU and the South American Trading bloc, will disproportionately affect the agricultural sector, and beef producers in particular. The NFU has said it has “repeatedly urged negotiators to proceed with caution” and stressed so-called “non-trade concerns” should be prominent in any talks with the Mercosur bloc.
The European farmer organisation Copa-Cogeca, which is the umbrella organisation for farming unions across Europe, has said the deal could cost the EU agriculture sector €13bn, which would mean a cost of €3bn to European beef farmers.
The NFU has said it understands any further discussions are likely to take place after the elections in Paraguay in April 2013 and they may stall for longer.
Livestock board chairman for the NFU Charles Sercombe said: “The UK is a significant EU beef producer and the NFU still has real concerns that a deal with Mercosur would jeopardise our domestic beef industry by allowing cheap product, produced to lower standards, into the European market. Any delay in these negotiations is to be welcomed and we will remain watchful for any moves by individual members of the Mercosur bloc.”
“In the meantime we must make moves to put our domestic beef industry on a sustainable footing to capitalise on emerging world markets and meet the demands of the UK consumer. The NFU plans to address these challenges and outline a vision for the future of the beef industry with the launch of a new report at the Livestock Event on 4 September.”
June saw the temporary suspension of Paraguay from the Mercosur board after the impeachment of its president. The suspension allowed other members to push for Venezuela to join the group. The NFU has said it believes “these factors, along with a more protectionist stance from Argentina, are likely to put added strain on EU-Mercosur talks that have stalled over recent months”.