Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell, says that revelations about corruption and fraud in the Brazilian meat industry are damning and he has called for the EU Commission to remove agriculture from the Mercosur negotiations and ban Brazilian meat imports completely.
The comments were made following confirmation that a major Brazilian meat processor has been fined a staggering £2.4 billion for its role in the country’s corruption scandals.
“The situation in Brazil continues to deteriorate as more reports emerge about the huge level of corruption in their meat industry and government,” said Mr Bell.
“The magnitude of this scandal is shocking and I can see no credible way for the EU Commission to continue to include agriculture in the Mercosur trade talks. The Commission must also take action by immediately banning all Brazilian meat imports to the EU,” said the president.
In 1996, at the early stages of the BSE crisis, the EU Commission was swift to ban all UK beef exports in the interest of public health. Twenty years on, the Commission’s approach appears to be much more lax, he said.
Mr Bell said, “The Brazilian meat scandal is a public health issue. The Commission has been slow to act and I would question why they have not approached this situation with the same urgency as BSE. It is unacceptable and immediate action must be taken.”
The revelations from Brazil must also be a key consideration in future trade negotiations for the UK government post-Brexit. “Politicians must ensure that food standards are upheld and cheap, low quality imports are not permitted to undermine our industry. Countries wishing to trade with us must demonstrate they can meet the high standards expected by UK consumers. It is also essential that the government treats beef and lamb as sensitive products within trade negotiations. To do otherwise would only serve to decimate these already vulnerable sectors,” said Mr Bell.
The Union president was commenting after the holding company of JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker, has agreed to pay what is believed to be a multi £billion penalty in exchange for leniency in wide-ranging corruption investigations that have been ongoing in Brazil.