The NFU has called on Boris Johnson to come forward with a comprehensive strategy to manage the impact of opening the UK market to some of the world’s biggest agricultural exporters following Britain’s trade deal with Australia.
In addition, the union wants the government to build an export platform that maximises opportunities to sell more British produce abroad.
Large-scale tariff liberalisation and significant increases in imports could lead to severe pressure on farm gate prices, NFU warned, potentially to levels that cause “significant harm” to farm businesses.
This is because many farmers in the countries we are doing trade deals with, such as Australia, operate on a much larger scale and can use products banned here, the union explained – and this leads to a lower cost of production.
“As a matter of urgency, it is critical our government showcases its plan to ensure its own domestic farming industry is not damaged by current or future trade deals, to seize the opportunities from our new independent trade policy, and to ensure trade deals the government negotiates do not undermine our country’s own high farming standards and do not reward and incentivise lower standards overseas,” an NFU spokesperson said.
This 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: “Just over a year ago, more than a million people put their name to a petition demanding that trade deals do not compromise our high standards of production. It remains to be seen how the government is keeping its promise to the nation, and those one million people in particular, not to undermine our farmers when you look at the details of this agreement.
“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.
“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."