Next week, Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom will visit SIAL, the big food fair on the outskirts of Paris, before she flies off to China to try to boost trade with the world’s second-biggest economy.
Ahead of that, the National Pig Association (NPA) has written to the minister asking for assurances that she will not pursue a cheap food agenda based on free trade.
In its Brexit briefing document, the NPA has warned Leadsom of the potential pitfalls associated with free trade. The priority, according to the NPA, should be for the UK to build its self-sufficiency in food while expanding export markets for pig meat.
Currently, EU tariffs add £45 per 100kg to the cost of imports of pig carcases, but if these were either significantly reduced or removed in new trade deals, the NPA fears this could open the door to large volumes of lower standard, imported pigmeat.
NPA policy services manager Lizzie Wilson said: “Countries like the US, Canada and Brazil are able to produce pigmeat at a much lower cost because they have lower animal welfare and environmental standards.
“We are absolutely adamant that the government must not put a desire for cheap food ahead of the need to shore up the UK’s self-sufficiency in food [and] we do not want to see UK consumers exposed to pigmeat produced to lower standards.”
In its Brexit document, the NPA calls for equivalent standards of production, including animal welfare, to be negotiated into any new trade agreements and, if necessary, for UK pigmeat to be granted protected status to control the volume of tariff-free imports allowed into the UK.