Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has met with the UFU to discuss the potential implications of a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur bloc of South American countries for agriculture locally.
The meeting took place ahead of a fact-finding visit to Brazil by a delegation from the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.
The MEP met with UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson and UFU Policy & Technical Manager James McCluggage.
Commenting after the meeting Mr Nicholson said: “Throughout the EU/Mercosur trade negotiations I have consistently raised concerns about the impact an additional influx of beef from the South American bloc will have on the European market and on Northern Ireland’s farmers.
“The traceability, animal welfare and environmental standards in Brazil don’t come close to the high standards that EU farmers adhere to. Only last year the so-called Brazilian rotten meat scandal - where a number of companies were found to have exported contaminated meat - hit the headlines.
“As part of a delegation of MEPs from the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee I am travelling to Brazil to investigate food safety standards.
“My meeting with the UFU this week was therefore a very useful opportunity to discuss industry concerns ahead of the delegation’s visit.”
Other issues discussed during the meeting with the UFU representatives included; the lack of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive and the implications for agriculture locally, UK agricultural policy post-Brexit and bTB policy.
Mr Nicholson concluded: “As negotiations with Mercosur continue it is absolutely vital that the European Commission defends sensitive EU agricultural sectors, particularly beef and poultry. Agriculture is too important; economically, socially and environmentally to be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.”