Leaders of the Irish Farmers’ Association, representing producers, and Meat Industry Ireland, the processors’ group, met agriculture and food minister Mary Coughlan last week to press for a strict ceiling on EU beef imports. They now plan to take their campaign to Brussels and are seeking talks with agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel and trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, who will head the EU team at the World Trade Organisation talks. The Irish groups fear that the WTO proposals, due to be discussed next month, could lead to EU import levies being slashed, resulting in uncontrolled imports of cheaper beef from South America.
Such a development, they warn, would devastate Ireland’s €2.2bn-a-year beef industry. They have called on the Irish government to declare the beef industry “a vital national interest”, to be defended by a veto if necessary.