Agriculture Bill: Further reaction as industry hits out at MPs
Various major players within the British meat industry have come out in force against the MPs that voted against changes to the Agriculture Bill which seeks to protect British food standards.
Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS)
Norman Bagley, head of policy for AIMS, said: “One of the main issues surrounding the Agriculture Bill is the debate on standards and specifically US chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef. The NFU and others have been banging the drum on this for many months now. It seems to have become a somewhat binary argument and perhaps misses some salient points.
“While many are concerned that this vote from MPs will open the UK up to imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-beef, it must be said that these products are already banned in the UK by law so would need a change in legislation for them to be permitted market access. Highly unlikely or more like impossible this would get through Parliament, meaning they will stay banned.
“So what happens to our prices if US hormone free beef comes to UK? This might surprise but there are some interesting statistics on US grass fed beef (hormone-free) from the US vs UK wholesale prices at the end of September 2020 which showed that US chuck beef is approximately £4.37lb, whereas UK chuck beef is £2.05lb. Similarly, US sirloin is £11.04lb and UK sirloin is £6.14lb. In other words substantially more expensive than UK product. Hardly a threat to UK beef prices.”
British Meat Processors Association
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), commented: “When it comes to standards and safeguards in food production, we are lucky to live in a part of the world that has some of the highest; and the British public are very clear they want that to continue. It is the responsibility of the powers-that-be to ensure there is adequate scrutiny of future trade deals so that the wishes and interests of the public are represented, and our high food standards are maintained.
“This should be achieved in the most transparent way possible and should involve rigorous and open parliamentary debate. This goes far deeper than protecting our home-based agricultural production it is about everyone’s confidence in the food we are eating.”
British Poultry Council
British Poultry Council (BPC) chief executive, Richard Griffiths, added: “With the UK beginning a new chapter outside the European Union, it is more important than ever to maintain UK’s animal welfare and food safety standards and protect them from dilution in trade deals and ensure nation’s access to affordable British food.
“The Government has repeatedly stated the UK will not compromise on our high standards of animal welfare, food production and environmental protection in trade negotiations, and we are asking them to live up to that commitment.
“We want the Government to adopt policies that allow us to drive productivity, create good jobs and strengthen our food security in a thriving, independent UK post-Brexit.”
“If we lose control of the food that enters our markets, we risk diluting our own standards and compromise our future trading relationship with the EU and place barriers between us and our biggest and closest trading partner.
“Dilution of food standards will not only penalise British producers who have worked hard to achieve these standards, but also create a two-tier food system in which only the affluent will be able to afford to eat British food grown to British standards.
“Brexit must be used as an opportunity to re-focus our attention on British food values, to state boldly that prioritising high standard, affordable and sustainable British produce, for all, is at the top of our agenda. We want the Government to adopt policies that allow us to drive productivity, create good jobs and strengthen our food security in a thriving, independent UK post-Brexit.”
National Sheep Association
National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive, Phil Stocker, was equally pragmatic: “This amendment provided opportunity to uphold and protect our animal welfare standards, some of the highest in the world. With this being rejected by MPs there is now the very real risk, despite Government’s assurances, that the UK’s standards that our nation’s farmers are proud to work to, could be undermined by lower standard imports.
“The Government may have already given a verbal commitment to farmers and consumers that the current high UK standards will not be threatened by imported goods, but even if this commitment is upheld it comes from the current Government only and therefore is for the present Parliamentary term, four years down the line there is a risk this commitment could be lost and the UK farming sector could be left to fight this battle again.
“Any suggestion by the Government that importing just ‘relatively small quantities of lower standard products’ is worth it in order to safeguard other trade flies in the face of the UK’s stated aim to see animal welfare standards increase across the world. We simply will not achieve this if we allow our markets to support standards, we wouldn’t find acceptable here.
“We sincerely hope the British public will get behind the country’s farmers more than ever now in supporting their hard work producing the highest quality, good value farm produce whilst caring for their livestock and upholding animal welfare standards at all times. As we leave the EU and further trade deals are secured it will be more important than ever to support UK agriculture and buy British to be assured of food traceability and quality.”
National Farmers Union
As reported previously by Meat Management, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Minette Batters, and NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, have also criticised the decision, with Batters adding that the future of British food and farming is at stake.
Read their full responses here.