‘Future of European beef sector’ to be discussed at EU committee

The future of the European beef sector will be discussed tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5 at a session of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, following a request by Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness.

McGuinness, the First Vice-President of the parliament, commented that: “The beef sector is under enormous pressure, not least in Ireland, where the frustration of farmers resulted in protests outside meat plants. And while the protests have subsided, the frustrations have not.”

Representatives from the European Commission for trade, agriculture and competition will participate in the session to “provide clarity” on where the European beef sector is heading in the future.

It is very important that we have a debate with commission representatives specialising in competition, trade and agriculture policy areas to ensure that the discussion is comprehensive.

McGuinness, who is also a member of the committee, said that it was “vital” that farmer concerns over anti-competitive practices are addressed.

She also highlighted that present EU competition policy may work against the interests of primary producers, with consumer price being the only “determinant of the effectiveness of the policy, with no account taken of the upstream or downstream consequences of price competition”.

“Today, we hear calls for greater focus on ‘public goods’; the environment, biodiversity and climate components of agriculture,” McGuinness observed.

However, there is broad acknowledgment that the market does not reward producers for these public goods, and to some extent the food supply chain works against the delivery of these public goods due to relentless price pressure on the primary producer.

McGuiness welcomed the establishment of producer organisations in Ireland, and also stressed that Brexit; EU trade policy; and supply and demand patterns were also some of the issues impacting the sector.

“I am happy that the agriculture committee of the European Parliament will debate these issues. Tomorrow’s meeting will also discuss transitionary measures for the Common Agricultural Policy, and ‘megatrends’ in the agri-food sector,” the Midlands-North West MEP concluded.