New Zealand trade deal threatens Scottish farming producers

While UK farmers have to jump through ever higher environmental, welfare and food safety standards, the UK government is intent on throwing the doors open to imports of cheap food which doesn’t meet the same standards.

Martin Kennedy
Martin Kennedy

That was the reaction from furious farmers as they claimed the agreement announced with New Zealand represented yet another free trade deal which granted a major exporter of farm produce unfettered access to the UK – while offering virtually nothing to Scottish farmers, growers and crofters in return.

Reflecting widespread industry condemnation of the deal, NFU Scotland said that the agreement, coupled with the Australian deal signed in June, could see the UK open up its borders to huge volumes of imported food, much of which might be produced under systems which were banned in Scotland.

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And warning that the deal threatened the viability of Scottish farmers and crofters at a time when consumer demand for local, sustainably produced Scottish food and drink was growing, the union also decried the fact that the deal had been concluded without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

“Our fears that the process adopted by the UK Government in agreeing the Australia deal would set a dangerous precedent going forward have just been realised,” said union president , Martin Kennedy.

Stating that the cumulative impact of all such deals would be substantial he said the latest deal was a real threat to the country’s valuable lamb, dairy and horticultural sectors.

“The reality is that as the Government drives a new open trading environment, it is increasingly imposing rules on us that make the industry less competitive.”

And Kennedy said that despite promises from the Department for International Trade that there would be safeguards for UK producers within such deals, these had never been identified.

The National Sheep Association clarified that the deal gave New Zealand the go ahead to export an additional 35,000 tonnes of sheep meat during the first four years of the agreement, and a further 50,000 tonnes from year five:

“This is in addition to the existing tariff-rate quota (TRQ) held as part of the WTO agreement that already allows New Zealand to export 114,000 tonnes to the UK each year,” said NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker who added that a plethora of standards, including those on journey times which UK producers had to meet were totally ignored in the deal.

Labour's trade secretary, Emily Thornberry, said the government's own figures showed the New Zealand agreement would "cut employment in our farming communities" – and warned that the only winners were "the mega-corporations who run New Zealand's meat and dairy farms".

*Commenting on yesterday’s launch of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) to scrutinise trade deals and advise parliament, a spokesperson for NFU Scotland said that while the union welcomed the announcement, it would be looking for details on both the timing of its operations and its terms of reference – and noted that it only came after two major deals had been announced without parliamentary scrutiny.


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