Help Brazil improve, urges EU minister

The European meat industry must help Brazil to meet standards to export to the EU and put beef imports in perspective, according to the European Commission's minister for agriculture.

Mariann Fischer Boel, speaking in Rome at the 25th anniversary of Italian trade body Assocarni, said many in the agricultural sector saw Brazil as "nothing but a threat", but she said Brazilian beef imports were an important element of EU trade relationships and increased imports, not just from Brazil, were something industry would have

to accept.

Fischer Boel said the disappearance of Brazilian beef from the European market was an issue of immediate importance that needed to be resolved, as the lack of

material had caused serious

problems for parts of the EU beef processing industry. And she added that it was not a matter of com-promising standards: "What we must do now is help the Brazilians to meet the standards.

"The Commission has already taken steps in this direction - for example, by organising training courses for the Brazilian autho-rities - and we hope to solve the problem in the medium term."

She questioned the view of Brazil as a threat to EU operations: "It's interesting to note that producer prices in Brazil are increasing sharply: in other words, the country's well-known cost advantage is decreasing. And this is at a time when global beef prices are expected to remain firm."

She said that the EU needed to view beef imports in the right perspective: "Yes, they have been increasing since 2002, and we have been importing beef outside quota. Nevertheless, today, our imports make up only 7% of total beef supplies on the European market. Even after a successful Doha Round [of WTO talks], most beef on the shelves of European butchers' shops and supermarkets would be there thanks to European producers."

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