The Ulster Farmers’ Union has raised key concerns of beef and lamb producers with MEPs Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson.
It says EU free trade discussions with New Zealand and Australia are a major concern for sheep producers across Europe.
“Over the last 30 years we have seen a big change in the trade New Zealand has with Europe. Previously it largely exported frozen carcases, but that trade is now mainly in fresh and frozen premium cuts,” said UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson.
While this change was driven by technical advances in transport and market demand the UFU says European decision makers must not ignore the impact this has on EU sheep producers.
“Over 80 per cent of the New Zealand lamb imports into Northern Ireland came between April and October – the prime period for local supplies. This hits already slim margins from sheep production. It is wrong that EU sheep production is undermined by imports during our season, and we have sought the MEPs’ support to highlight this with the European Commission,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU also took the opportunity to discuss the ongoing Mercosur (South America) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade negotiations.
“There will potentially be opportunities to market beef and lamb to the US under TTIP, but there is no advantage to farmers from the Mercosur discussions.
“Beef and lamb are both sensitive products and local producers simply cannot be put at risk by trade negotiations that would allow meat produced to an inferior standard into Europe,” added Mr Ferguson.