Brazil’s ‘rotten meat’ scandal should be a good news story for the livestock sectors here in Northern Ireland, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Victor Chestnutt.
“At a fundamental level, the ongoing developments in Brazil should bring home to local consumers the message that cheap food is not quality food,” he said.
“The history of attempts to deliver cheap food in countries around the world has been littered with fraudulent activity of one form or another. What’s going on in Brazil now is just the latest in quite a long line of scandals. The horsemeat fiasco of 2013 comes immediately to mind in this regard.”
Mr Chestnutt believes that the EU should ban the import of all Brazilian meat products with immediate effect.
“And the country should not be allowed to re-commence exports into Europe until its entire meat industry is fit for purpose.
“Simply licensing individual meat plants and farms isn’t good enough. Such an approach still leaves the door open for fraudulent activity.
“We now know that the activities at the heart of the current scandal have been going on for at least two years. Brazil must clean up its act completely if it wants to do business in this part of the world.”
According to the European Commission, four of the 20 plus meat processing businesses caught up in the Brazilian debacle had EU export accreditation.
Mr Chestnutt continued: “A piece meal settlement with Brazil is the last thing we need. If Europe goes down this road, what’s to stop meat from an unlicensed food business having its documentation switched illegally, thereby bestowing incorrect EU or UK accreditation on to specific meat shipments.
“Brazilian meat should be kept out of the EU until such times as the current problems are fully resolved, no matter how long this takes.
“It is vital that consumers are not put at risk by cheap imports from countries that cannot meet strict EU requirements and that Brussels must not accept any level of non-compliance.”
Looking ahead, Mr Chestnutt said that consumers in the UK must be prepared to pay a sustainable price for the food produced on their doorstep.
“A cheap food policy is the last thing we need post-Brexit. Potentially, there are tremendous opportunities for the farming and food sectors here in Northern Ireland over the coming years. The UK is not self-sufficient in food. As a consequence, local farming and food businesses should be availing of this opportunity.
“But farmers must receive realistic prices in order to make this a reality.”