Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 26 September, 2007

Written Answers. - Beef Imports.

Deputy Charles Flanaganasked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action she proposes to take to restrict the importation of fresh South American beef into Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19740/07]

  Deputy Mary Coughlan:Conditions for trade in animal products with third countries follow the principles established under agreements of World Trade Organisation and the International Organisation for Animal Health. The European Commission is mandated to negotiate these on behalf of the European Community and, through its Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), to monitor their compliance in third countries it has approved for trade with the EU. This approval is on the basis that the Commission adjudges the third country’s controls offer an equivalent level of guarantee for the protection animal and human health to those being operated in the Community. Where there are risks to the public or animal health in the Community from disease outbreaks occurring in approved third countries Safeguard Measures are invoked restricting or banning imports from the affected country or region until the risk has been eliminated. The following South American countries, or regions of these countries, are currently approved to export fresh beef into the EU: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In 2005 Safeguard Measures were introduced following outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Brazil restricting imports to non-affected regions. The FVO has undertaken a number of missions to monitor these foot and mouth controls as well as those on residues, traceability and on public health that are applied in particular to animal products destined for export the EU. While these reports, published on the Commission’s website refer to certain shortcomings the Commission has [441] to date not adjudged these to be of risk in relation to the import of meat into the EU. http://ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/ir search en.cfm.

I have consistently pointed out at EU level that produce imported from third countries must meet standards equivalent to those required of Community producers. As the Deputy knows Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU Directives on such matters as traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection. I am firmly of the view that our farmers who respect and produce to the highest standards deserve fair play in the market place. In this context I have been in regular contact EU Commissioner for Health Mr. Markos Kyprianou. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. I intend to continue to pursue this matter with the Commission in the light of the forthcoming EU Food and Veterinary Office missions to Brazil.