UK-New Zealand: farming benefits must be found

Published 21 October 2021

International trade
Minette Batters NFU President Back British Farming 2020

NFU President Minette Batters said the UK-New Zealand deal, as with the one signed early this year with Australia, could have a 'huge downside' for our dairy, livestock and horticulture sectors and that a coherent approach is needed to bolster UK farming’s productivity.

This latest deal paves the way to us joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and sets a precedent for future trade deals with countries such as Canada and Japan.

High-welfare standards

Responding to news of reaching the deal, NFU President Minette Batters said: “The announcement of this trade deal with New Zealand, coupled with the Australia deal signed earlier this year, means we will be opening our doors to significant extra volumes of imported food – whether or not produced to our own high standards – while securing almost nothing in return for UK farmers.”

“We should all be worried that there could be a huge downside to these deals, especially for sectors such as dairy, red meat and horticulture.”

Opportunities in both directions

The government believe that the deal works for the UK and New Zealand.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it “affords opportunities in both directions for great sharing of produce.” and British farmers should not be worried.

UK farmers work within tight margins

However, Minette Batters went on to explain, “The fact is that UK farm businesses face significantly higher costs of production than farmers in New Zealand and Australia, and it’s worth remembering that margins are already tight here due to ongoing labour shortages and rising costs on farm.

“The government is now asking British farmers to go toe-to-toe with some of the most export orientated farmers in the world, without the serious, long-term and properly funded investment in UK agriculture that can enable us to do so.”

Coherent approach needed

Minette also called for government departments to work together, she said “This is the sort of strategic investment in farming and exports that Australian and New Zealand governments have made in recent decades. There needs to be a coherent approach across government to bolster UK farming’s productivity.”

“It’s incredibly worrying that we’ve heard next to nothing from government about how it will work with farming to achieve this. This is why it is very, very difficult for the NFU to show any support for these deals.”

Upside for farmers in New Zealand

Trade deals should work for both parties. Minette commented that, “They involve significant upsides for farmers on the other side of the world who can now access our hugely valuable market but contain little discernible benefit for UK producers, either at home or overseas.

“This could damage the viability of many British farms in the years ahead, to the detriment of the public, who want more British food on their shelves, and to the detriment of our rural communities and cherished farmed landscapes.

“Instead of repeating the refrain that these deals will be good for British agriculture, our government now needs to explain how these deals will tangibly benefit farming, the future of food production and the high standards that go along with it on these shores.”

Not likely to increase GDP

The government has worked hard to get the deal and it is the culmination of 16 months' work. It was also seen as a priority for New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

The UK government's own assessment is that the deal is not likely to increase UK economic growth or our GDP though. The Labour party have agreed with the NFU and said that the deal could hurt UK farmers and lower food standards.

We will continue to work towards more engagement in future trade deals and explain what this UK-New Zealand deal will mean for UK farming in the future.

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