NFU President Minette Batters will today (Monday 21 May) underline the importance of an ambitious trade deal with the EU for UK agriculture.
During a visit to England’s largest sheep producing area, the Yorkshire Dales, Mrs Batters will also highlight the significance of the sheep sector to the UK economy. She will spend the day in Skipton meeting local sheep farmers and will officially open a new livestock sales complex at Craven Cattle Mart.
The complex, which includes two bespoke sale rings, represents the biggest single investment at the site in more than a decade. With 30% of England’s sheep to be found in Yorkshire and the North East, sheep production is vital to the rural economy.
In 2015 the value of sheep meat exports to the EU topped £302 million – representing 95% of all such exports.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mrs Batters highlighted the fact that this year’s lamb sales will be the last before the UK enters unchartered territory outside membership of the EU.
She said: “This brings into sharp focus the importance of securing a favourable trade deal with the EU, especially given the value of the sheep sector to the UK and the value of European export markets for sheep meat.
“The trade deals the country is now negotiating seem very far away, with few of us actually exporting or importing directly. But trade is absolutely fundamental to the future of our livestock industry. With so much at stake, the UK government must adopt a trade policy which prioritises tariff free, frictionless access to the European marketplace.
“This is crucial to underpin market stability – vital not just for farmers but the many wider supply chain businesses that depend on a thriving sheep sector. Clearly there are opportunities to explore new trading agreements with nations around the globe, but we cannot turn our backs on a trading relationship that has, for so long, influenced the development of our livestock industries.
“Farmers are determined to continue delivering for the nation. Whether that’s providing quality, safe, traceable food for everyone, no matter what their budget, or managing iconic landscapes and helping the country achieve its environmental aspirations. But to do this we need the government and its trade negotiators to understand the very real challenges facing livestock farmers as we head into unchartered waters and be ambitious in their negotiations.”