NFU urges PM to reveal plan for farming’s future
The Government must provide a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to manage the impact of imports and build a strong export platform for British produce, says the NFU.
Large-scale tariff liberalisation and significant increases in imports could lead to severe pressure on farmgate prices and potentially cause significant harm to farm businesses, the organisation warned in a statement. This could happen due to farmers in the countries the UK is striking trade deals with operating on a much larger scale and who can potentially use products banned in the UK to lower production costs.
The NFU urged the Government to showcase its plan to ensure that current and future trade deals do not harm the domestic farming industry and to seize opportunities from the UK’s new independent trade policy. Trade deals should also not undermine British farming standards and incentivise lower standards overseas.
According to the NFU, the plan should include:
- Conducting a rigorous economic assessment of the predicted cumulative impact of free trade agreements on UK agriculture
- Publishing its response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s report of March 2021, in particular how it intends to pursue a liberalised trade policy alongside its assurances not to compromise our high standards
- Setting out a detailed export strategy that includes match-funding for export promotion and market development, and investment in trade diplomacy overseas
- Developing a comprehensive strategy to improve productivity and competitiveness at home for UK farmers
- Establishing a clear and explicit process to review the impact of our free trade agreements
NFU President Minette Batters said: “Looking at the recently announced UK-Australia deal, the tariff-free access being granted to Australian farmers from the outset is incredibly significant. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about this level of tariff liberalisation on sensitive sectors, such as beef, lamb and sugar, and the subsequent impact this could have on domestic producers if they are undercut by imports.
“These are enormous volumes and it’s not clear at all that the safeguards that have been announced will have any effect. For example, the fifth year of the tariff safeguard on lamb would only kick in if Australian producers have already shipped over 150% of the UK’s current import requirement. It’s hard to know if it is British lamb producers or the carrying capacity of our docks that are really being safeguarded here.
“It is imperative the Government explains how it will work with farmers in the UK…”Minette Batters, NFU president
“As the final details of how the tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) are administered and how the safeguards will operate are negotiated, I expect the government to engage directly with the UK food and farming industry immediately to ensure these aspects of the deal are as effective as possible. In particular, imports of sensitive products like beef, lamb and sugar under TRQs or subject to safeguards must be managed so that distortion of the domestic market is minimised.”
Batters pointed out that more than a million people signed a petition just over a year ago, demanding that trade deals do not compromise the UK’s high standards of production. She stressed that the NFU and its members were ready to work with the Government on this issue.
“It is imperative the government explains how it will work with farmers in the UK, so they can continue to produce the high-quality food the public wants in the face of huge potential volumes of imports produced in very different systems that the public would not put up with if they were adopted by British farmers,” Batters added.
“We recognise the advantages of striking independent trade deals and being able to sell our fantastic British produce abroad, but this must be accompanied by a strategy that details how we will improve our trade diplomacy, including boots on the ground focusing on agri-food exports alongside measures to improve the productivity and competitiveness of UK farming.”