NZ-UK trade deal threatens UK farming

Tue 26/10/2021 by Richard Wilkinson
NFU president Minette Batters. Copyright: NFU.
Last week, NFU president Minette Batters reacted to the agreement of a UK-New Zealand trade deal and the challenges that lie ahead.

The English and Welsh farming unions NFU and NFU Cymru have expressed concern over the implications for British farmers of a free trade deal with New Zealand, announced in principle on 20th October, reports Fresh Produce Journal.

Commenting on the agreement reached by UK and New Zealand negotiators, NFU Cymru president, John Davies said: 

“I view this latest announcement with great apprehension for future generations, and as further confirmation of the UK Government’s agenda of liberalising trade with some of the world’s largest agri-food exporters, an agenda which has the potential to seriously threaten Welsh farming in return for no tangible benefits that we can see.

With this announcement, the UK Government’s direction of travel is abundantly clear. It leaves me particularly worried about the cumulative impacts successive trade deals will have on Wales’ farmers, as slowly but surely the floodgates are thrown open to imports from all over the world. We need a detailed economic assessment from the UK Government of the predicted cumulative impact on Welsh agriculture of UK trade policy. However, my concerns go further than economics – if our financial viability is threatened, then the social and cultural fabric of our rural communities will be threatened, as well.”

NFU President Minette Batters echoed this sentiment: 

“The announcement of this trade deal with New Zealand, coupled with the Australia deal signed earlier this year, means we will be opening our doors to significant extra volumes of imported food – whether or not produced to our own high standards – while securing almost nothing in return for UK farmers. The fact is that UK farm businesses face significantly higher costs of production than farmers in New Zealand and Australia, and it’s worth remembering that margins are already tight here due to ongoing labour shortages and rising costs on farm. The government is now asking British farmers to go toe-to-toe with some of the most export orientated farmers in the world, without the serious, long-term and properly funded investment in UK agriculture that can enable us to do so. This is the sort of strategic investment in farming and exports that Australian and New Zealand governments have made in recent decades.”

Commenting on the trade deal with New Zealand, trade body British Apples and Pears chair Ali Capper said it could offer the UK sector opportunities in areas of research and export partnership: 

“The liberalisation of trade between our two countries is a one way deal – the UK has almost 70 million consumers and New Zealand less than 5 million so this deal benefits New Zealand apple and pear growers but is of less interest for British growers.”

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