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Welsh farming union fears long-term impact of Australia trade deal

04 Aug 2021 5 minutes Read
Photo by Nation.Cymru

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is worried about the long-term impact of the UK’s trade deal with Australia.

It has responded to a report by the Welsh Affairs Committee on the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which granted Australian farmers zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the UK market.

According to the committee, long-term risks of the deal are “unknown”, but it said in the short-term it is unlikely to result in a competitive disadvantage for Wales in the short-term, because Australia has more profitable markets “closer to home”.

It is feared that imports of Australian lamb and beef will land hardest in rural areas such as Welsh hill farms, and impact Welsh speaking heartlands, and FUW Head of Policy Dr Nick Fenwick told the committee hearing that under certain future trading conditions the trade deal as currently drafted could have severe impacts for Welsh farmers.

Australian trade negotiator Professor Dmitry Grozoubinski has said “Welsh farmers are right to be concerned in the long-term”.

Speaking after the report’s publication, Dr Nick Fenwick said: “The committee is right to say that there is unlikely to be any impact for farmers in the short term, but the question is ‘what will the situation be in ten or fifteen years?’

“Clearly there’s nothing to worry about if nothing ‘goes wrong’, but global trade patterns and prices can change dramatically over a ten year period, and if there are no safeguards in place the damage to our farming industry of this and other similar trade deals would be immense and unstoppable.

During the evidence hearings, former Australian trade negotiator Professor Dmitry Grozoubinski told the hearing that “Welsh farmers are right to be concerned in the long term… when you eliminate tariffs or you raise quotas to hundreds of thousands of pounds, then, if that quota were to be filled or if there were a 10,000% increase in Australian lamb to the UK, I think that would be devastating for Welsh farming.

“This deal means that that is now a theoretical possibility in the sense that the UK Government can no longer use tariffs to prevent it,” added Dr Fenwick.

‘No safeguards’ 

Dr Fenwick said that in its current form the trade deal would allow the amount of Australian beef and lamb imported to the UK to increase by hundreds of thousands of tonnes, and there appeared to be no safeguards to prevent the import of food produced to standards that fall short of what is required in the UK.

This position that appeared to be supported by Professor Grozoubinski, who told the committee that “Australia will not be obligated to treat an animal in any way differently because of this deal than they were a week before it was signed”.

Dr Fenwick said that In light of such concerns, Members of Parliament needed to act to ensure the UK’s long term interests are served and that Welsh and UK farmers and food can be protected in the long-term in a range of scenarios.

“As it currently stands, the deal would open the door to the possibility of severe impacts in ten or fifteen years, and make that door almost impossible to close for a future government. It’s almost universally accepted that the deal would also set precedents for trade deals with other countries which would add to pressures for Welsh farmers,” he added.

The Committee has also called for the UK and Welsh governments to work with the agri-food sector to ensure that UK producers have the skills and support needed to compete a new global trading environment. This would include a significant increase in the number of Agriculture and Food counsellors based overseas.

The report recommends that the draft treaty text is shared with the Welsh Government.

It says this is to enable the Welsh Government to feedback the local and regional impacts, and to develop its own impact assessment covering the short-term impacts and impacts by sector.

The FUW has welcomed a number of the recommendations by the Welsh Affairs Committee.

Dr Fenwick said:  “We wrote to the committee in June suggesting that such an inquiry takes place, and welcome the recommendations which, if accepted by the UK Government, would mark a small step towards achieving transparency and a sensible position on the UK-Australia trade deal.”

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on agriculture in Westminster and member of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Ben Lake MP said: “Welsh farmers are rightly concerned that an influx of cheaper beef and lamb from Australia will undercut their produce over the next 15 years. The UK Government could allay their fears by setting out an impact assessment on the long-term impacts – but refuse to do so.

“Plaid Cymru has serious concerns that the agreement fails to protect the interests of Welsh farming, which sends a worrying signal to other large farming nations hoping to strike trade deals with the UK, adding further pressures on Welsh lamb and beef farmers.”

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GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
1 month ago

I would have sympathy if these guys didn’t vote tory and didn’t vote in favour of brexit. They did this to themselves. I was working in the farming industry during brexit and there was a clear distinction of voting patterns between the older and younger farmers. The older ones believed the bs and the british nationalist narrative while the younger ones knew the truth and could see this coming. My sympathy goes to the younger ones which the older generation sh@t on.

Last edited 1 month ago by GW Atkinson
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

Not just farming, parents were throwing their kids under Boris’ bus the length and breadth of Wales…It’s the Cartref Henoed for them!

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

The people brought this on themselves. The shelves in my local supermarket were curtained off with pictures of produce and the quality of what was available went through the floor long ago. Of course they’ll blame Covid for everything that Brexit has caused and the gullible Britnats and tory apologists will swallow it all. The truth is that we kicked our best friends in the teeth and are now whining because it’s come home to roost.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago

Wales interests rarely are the same as UK interests. England is the major country in the UK, they will always outnumber our interests. The UK is centralised and are not accountable to Wales, Scotland, nor NI. We therefore, should consider a future where we in Wales can decide for ourselves, that will mean declaring independence as other former British colonies have done. None have regret leaving. The European Union would be a better alliance as there all members are a minority within the union and we would be able to find allies. Why are the Welsh people so fixed on… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Gain independence and we can set our own trade agreement with Australia, one that would be fairer and not pandering to the nationalist desperation and stupidity that represents Brexit.

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Gain independence and we could at least get back into Shengen

Dyfi Dreamer
Dyfi Dreamer
1 month ago
Reply to  #1Chris

Wales was never in Schengen, so it’d be hard to ‘get back into it’. We could, however, join for the first time.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dyfi Dreamer
Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago

Wouldn’t it be ironic if a decade from now meat consumption has sunk to tiny levels as more and more people choose vegetarian options. This would render the debate over importing vast amounts of antipodean lamb completely moot. I can’t see myself ever being a ‘veggie’ but can see a time when a joint of any meat becomes an occasional luxury meal, like turkey at Xmas. Peppa Pig/Pinc forming part of a BLT sandwich and school trips to Folly Farm is bound to create some squeemishness about eating little animals. Add in the global warming factor and we have a… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

You make a very good point there Huw.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

The climatic sh!tstorm that’s coming could mean that large scale sheep and cattle farming in Australia could become unsustainable. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they ended up buying ours. I wouldn’t have much sympathy for the Aussies though, they have consistently voted for climate change denying governments.

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