AUSTRALIA’S peak farmer body has weighed into the United Kingdom trade debate as negotiations with Australia and New Zealand reach an advanced stage.
Amid UK concerns that tariff-free access by Australian beef and lamb producers might damage UK farming, National Farmers Union president Minette Batters expressed concerns about UK farmers struggling to compete against other countries that do not have our high animal welfare and environmental standards.
“The British government faces a choice.
“It must recognise that opening up zero tariff trade on all imports of products such as beef and lamb means British farming, working to its current high standards, will struggle to compete,” she said.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said the reality was any potential increase in Australian beef and sheep meat exports to the United Kingdom as an outcome from an enhanced trade partnership, would be dependent on UK demand.
“The volume of Australian red meat to the UK in the context of the UK’s total red meat imports and Australia’s total exports, is very, very small,” she said.
In 2020, the UK imported 314,000 tonnes of beef, with only 1567 tonnes coming from Australia, approximately 0.15% of all Australian beef exports.
In 2020 the UK imported 67,500 tonnes of sheep meat, about 14% of which came from Australia.
“The aim of any free trade agreement is to provide both parties options. Australian red meat producers would like to have the option to export to the UK if and when the UK needs it.
“The NFF values the close relationship we have with our counterparts in the UK National Farmers Union,” Ms Simson said.
“The NFF was warmly welcomed to the UK in 2019 by NFU President Minette Batters and despite the distance and geographical differences our farmers share many of the same issues and challenges as our UK peers.
“The NFF continues to support Trade Minister Tehan and the Australian Government in the collaborative and productive negotiations with their UK counterparts as they strive towards securing a free trade agreement that is to the overall benefit of both parties.”
Ms Simson said Australia’s red meat industry was leading the world in investing in research and adopting supply chain practices aimed at cutting carbon emissions – with a target to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“Meat and Livestock Australia report on progress towards this goal using the Australian Green House Gas Inventory. The Australian GHG Inventory follows the IPCC guidelines.”
Ms. Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union in the United Kingdom, throwing her hands in the air about the UK’s capacity to compete against Australian and New Zealand lamb imports, claims the UK Government…. “must recognize that opening up zero tariff trade on all imports of products such as beef and lamb means British farming, working to its current high standards, will struggle to compete.”
Dear Ms. Batters you should tell your meat producers the problem is, as you must surely know, not a matter of higher standards. but rather 60 years of subsidization of British agriculture.
You must also surely know Ms. Batters that government subsidies always get capitalized back into land values. It is the ridiculous price of land in the UK, rooted as it is in a system of subsidies, that has made it impossible for efficient farmers in the UK to expand and remain competitive, preferring instead the protected “cotton wool” European market.
Your organization, the NFU has been particularly adroit since World War II in conning the taxpayers into handing out money to your members. May I suggest Ms. Batters you start to think about how you are going to make your industry competitive on world markets without taxpayer support. Blaming high standards for lack of competitiveness, is as we say in Australia, a complete furphy.