Lib Dem Senedd candidate accuses Tories of ‘failing British farming’ as EU exports plummet
A Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate has accused the Tories of failing British farmers, as exports to the EU have plummeted.
William Powell, who is standing for the party in Brecon and Radnorshire, has called the UK Government to act fast to protect the UK’s agriculture and fishing sectors.
According to January 2021 export figures compiled by HMRC and collated by the Food and Drink Federation, the UK’s food and drink exports to the EU have fallen by 75.5% overall compared to January 2020.
Exports to Germany have fallen by 80.6% and sales to Italy have dropped by 84%.
Ireland was the UK’s biggest single EU export market at the start of 2020, representing 18% of total food & drink exports. However, this trade is now down by 84.9%.
Much of the trade in food produce and other agricultural goods between the UK and Ireland run through the Welsh ports at Fishguard, Pembroke and Holyhead.
The word hit export products include cheese, down by 85.1%, pork, down by 86.9%, beef, down by 91.5% and salmon, which was down by 98.%.
EU imports into the UK were also significantly down in the same period, but to a lesser extent. For example, Beef imports were reduced by 37.2% and Cheese imports fell by 30.5%.
The UK suffered a fall in food and drink exports to every EU country, but some EU member states, notably Lithuania, have actually experienced a growth in imports to the UK.
William Powell said: “This information is alarming and demonstrates that the Conservatives are letting British farmers and fisherman down once again.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably had a devastating impact on European economies and global trade and the stockpiling of goods ahead of the end of the Brexit Transition Period is also a contributing factor to this sharp decline in sales.
“However, the Conservative UK Government’s bloated bureaucracy and shambolic preparation for the new non-tariff barriers is prolonging the pain for food export businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises and family farms.
“Huge backlogs at our seaports have caused fresh food to go off before it has reached its destination and many hauliers are reporting significant delays and excessive paperwork.
“The Tories promised a Brexit that works for Britain. This isn’t working for British farming.”
Kirsty Williams MS added: “The fact that the fall in UK exports to the EU has been so much more dramatic than the fall in EU imports to the UK, shows that our processes and preparedness for adapting to the new trading relationship were not as good as they could have been, to say the very least.
“With the fall in freight traffic casting the future of some seaports, including Fishguard Harbour, into doubt, I worry about the long-term future of many of our farms and food exporters here in Wales if the situation does not improve very soon.
“The UK Government must act fast to streamline the processing of goods at the borders and boost our international trade prospects, especially with the EU.
“If they fail to do so, significant parts of our agriculture and rural economy – that is so crucial to maintaining sustainable and thriving communities and a way of life for many here in Brecon and Radnorshire – may not survive.”