An cunnart ann an aonta malairt an asgaidh le Astràilia – Murray MacLeoid

Nam biodh na tha sinn a’ cluinntinn nas coltaiche ris an fhìrinn, cha bu chòir gum biodh cus eagail air gnìomhachas an àiteachais ri aonta malairt an asgaidh le Astràilia.

Scottish crofters and farmers are concerned about cheap imports of beef and other products in the event of a UK-Australia trade deal being signed (Picture: Tony Lewis/Getty Images)

[English-language version below]

Nach tric is minig a tha sinn a’ cluinntinn gu bheil luchd-ceannaich a’ fàs cho glic mu dè am biadh a chuireas iad air truinnsear. A-rèir aithris, tha sinn a’ caitheamh an t-uabhas ùine a’ beachdachadh air cò às a thàinig ar cuid bidhe agus dè cho math ‘s a tha e dhan àrainneachd.

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Tha fhios gu bheil cuid, agus ‘s dòcha gu bheil e fàs nas cumanta. Ach, ‘s e an fhìrinn dhan mhòr-chuid gur e aon rud sìmplidh a tha a’ cunntadh – dè na tha againn de dh’airgead nar pòcaid.

Sin as coireach gu bheil tuathanaich is croitearan cho iomagaineach mu dheidhinn feòil nas saoire a bhith a’ nochdadh air sgeilpichean nam bùth.

Faodadh thu fàgail gu aon taobh prionnsabalan mòra, mar dè an t-astar a chaidh a shiubhal, no dè seòrsa àrach a fhuair am beathach, ma tha a’ phrìs ceart, lorgaidh e margaid.

‘S dòcha gu bheil adhbhran ruideigin nas practaigiche ann air carson nach fhaic sinn an t-uabhas feòil Astràilianach anns na bùthan, ged-tà, fiù ‘s ged a bhiodh aonta an asgaidh ann. ‘S e Sìona a’ mhargaidh eadar-nàiseanta as motha a tha aig an dùthaich sin an-dràsta, air an stàrsach aca fhèin (an comas rinne co-dhiù) agus ‘s i a’ mhargaidh as motha san t-saoghal air a bheil fàs a’ tighinn son stuthan feòla. Cha chuir an tuathanach Astràilianach a chùlaibh ri sin idir.

Ach, co-dhiù an-dràsta, tha croitearan is tuathanaich fìor dhraghail mu dè bhios e a' ciallachadh ma bhios cothroman gun bhacadh aig feòil mairt Astràilianach air Breatainn -- agus mas e agus gu bheil brìgh anns an iomagan sin, ‘s e na croitearan agus tuathanaich bheaga a dh’fhuilinngeas aig a’ cheann thall. Nach e an-còmhnaidh?

Tha e air a bhith na chleachdadh dha tacan a bhith a’ fàs nas motha agus nas motha. Tha sin air ciallachadh gu bheil na croitearan is tacan beaga teaghlaich anns na glinn ‘s na monaidhean air falbh, air an sluagadh le biastan mòra, agus a’ fagail choimhearsnachdan iomalaich nas cugallaiche buileach.

Bidh ùine ann fhathast mas fhaigh sinn a-mach dè bhios anns an aonta le Astràilia agus ‘s dòcha gu lean an Riaghaltas na geallaidhean a thug iad seachad mu bhith a’ dìon àiteachais anns an duthaich seo fhèin, nuair a thig e gu aontaidhean ùra às dèidh Brexit. Ach, chan eil mòran earbsa ann gun dèan iad sin agus fiù ‘s aig a’ char as fheàrr, ‘s e dealbh ùr, mì-chinnteach a bhios ann.

Chan i feòil-mhairt Astràilianach an aon chunnart a tha mu choinneamh croitearachd agus tuathanaich bheaga, no fiù ‘s an cunnart as motha. Ach, tha e dìreach a’ sealltainn mar a tha an roinn seo -- roinn a tha math dhan àrainneachd, cuimhnich -- a’ cur feum air taic agus coimhearsnachdan a bha cho mòr an urra ri obair àiteachais traidiseanta ann an cunnart a dhol a-mach à bith.

A’ bruidhinn mu aonta malairt an asgaidh le Astràilia, thuirt cathraiche Caidreachas Croitearchd na h-Alba, Dòmhnall MacFhionghain, gum biodh e na “bhuille-bàis”.

Cha robh e idir a’ ciallachadh gun tigeadh feòil mairt na h-Alba a-mach à sealladh ri linn, ach an cron maireannach a dhèanadh e sìos an loidhne air an fheadhainn as lugha.

Fios bhon neach-deasachaidh:

Tapa leibh airson an aithris a tha seo a leughadh. Tha sinn an eismeil ur taic nas motha na bha riamh agus buaidh a’ Choronbhirus air buaidh a thoirt air luchd sanasachd. Mur eil sibh air a dhèanamh mar-tha, ma se ur toil, nach beachdaich sibh taic a chumail ri ar obair-naidheachd earbsach, a tha sinn a’ dearbhadh a tha fìor, le bhith toirt a-mach ballrachd digiteach.

Crofters fear ‘catastrophic’ effects of UK-Australia free-trade deal

If reality reflected the rhetoric, the agricultural industry would have little to fear from a free-trade deal with Australia.

We are constantly being told that consumers are becoming ever more discerning about the choice of food on their plates. If you believe the hype, people spend an inordinate amount of time considering where and how their food is produced and what are its environmental credentials.

Of course, some do, and it may be a growing trend. But the harsh reality is that for many it boils down to one simple overriding factor – the pound in the pocket.

That’s why farmers and crofters are so concerned about the prospect of the UK market being flooded with cheaper alternatives, in this case all the way from Australia.

You can forget high-minded concepts like food miles or whether an animal has been raised purely on forage or in cramped and dusty feedlots on the other side of the world, if the price is right it will find its market, even if more of us are choosing to be a little bit more picky about what we buy and eat.

There may be more practical reasons why fears of copious amount of Australian beef appearing on UK supermarket shelves are misplaced, however, and that’s because their country’s biggest export market by far is China, right on their doorstep (comparatively speaking anyway) and the world’s fastest growing market for red meat products, with unbounded potential.

But for now crofters and farmers are deeply concerned over the prospects of unfettered access for Australian beef to the UK – and if their fears are proved founded it will be the small producers who are hit the hardest. Isn’t it always?

The inexorable trend in agriculture has been towards larger units so that economies of scale can better absorb market fluctuations. The end result has been crofters and small upland family farms disappearing from the hillside and glens, swallowed up by behemoth businesses, with inherent consequences for the vitality and viability of many rural communities.

If will be some time yet before we know the crucial detail in the Australian deal and the UK government may yet live up to their promise of protecting domestic farming interests in this brave new world of post-Brexit trade agreements, but there is clearly very little confidence they will, and even the best outcome will result in an emerging landscape of growing uncertainty.

Australian beef is by no means the only, or even the biggest, threat to crofting and small-scale farming. But it does highlight the real need for intervention, not just to protect our environmentally-friendly food producers but to recognise that many rural communities where agriculture served as the traditional bedrock are already tinkering on the brink of survival.

Commenting on the possibility of a free-trade deal with Australia, Scottish Crofting Federation chair Donald MacKinnon said it would be “catastrophic”. He wasn’t talking about the Scotch Beef brand disappearing from the shelves, but rather the devastating effects that will inevitably be felt further down the food production line.

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