Welsh farmers’ leaders hit out at trade deals as imports rise and Welsh lamb prices fall
Welsh farmers have hit out at the UK Government’s trade deals with Australia and New Zealand amid rising imports and falling prices for lamb.
According to UK trade figures, there was an increase of 17% in lamb imports during September and November last year, while prime lamb prices have fallen by 90 pence per kilo year on year.
They are now trending below the five-year average despite buoyant markets for lamb during the pandemic.
When trade deals with Australia and New Zealand were announced in December 2021 and February 2022 respectively, farmers warned the terms of the deal would trigger big increases in imports of tariff free beef and lamb.
According to the Farmers Union of Wales, the agreement could result in tariff free beef imports from New Zealand rising to 12,000 tonnes, increasing to 38,820 tonnes in ten years’ time.
Similarly, tariff-free imports in the lamb market would increase by 35,000 tonnes per annum in years one to four, then by 50,000 tonnes per annum in years five to 15, after which there would be no limit.
Further rises would occur in the subsequent five years, after which there would be no limit.
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “Ministers, MPs and Lords who were supportive of the UK Government’s liberal approach to trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia argued at the time that the Welsh sheep industry should not be concerned as those countries were well below the existing import quota limits and this was unlikely to change.
“We warned then that this was a naïve or deliberately misleading point of view that failed to take account of how global markets, exchange rates and other factors could rapidly change, leading to increases in import volumes that have a negative impact on UK markets.”
“We are now locked into trade deals with New Zealand and Australia that will phase out import limits for key Welsh products altogether, with few safeguards for our own producers.
“These deals are seen as laughably liberal by other countries given the vanishingly small benefits the Government’s own figures show they are likely to bring for the UK economy,” added Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts reiterated the FUW’s longstanding call for the UK Government to revise its policy on international trade and place UK food security and standards at the top of the agenda – particularly given the vulnerability of lengthy supply chains and reliance on imports exposed by the pandemic and Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“The Government’s own impact analyses make it clear that these deals will see production and prices undermined, with losses of hundreds of millions for the food and farming sector under certain scenarios.
“Such losses would be severely compounded if similarly liberal trade deals are signed with other countries we are currently negotiating with and may seek trade deals with in future,” he added.
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