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AgLife: Much ado about nothing

Australia has the privilege of being the first cab off the rank to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, post Brexit. 

Negotiations had been progressing apace with the deal destined to be sealed next month. But, as with most of these FTAs, agriculture is the big sticking point, particularly with countries such as Britain where farmers are heavily subsidised to the tune of billions of pounds a year.

So it was not to be unexpected that the National Farmers Union of the United Kingdom would stage a backlash.

Welsh cattle producers accused our beef herd of not meeting animal-welfare standards. Other farmers said our beef wasn’t fit to consume because we used hormone growth promotants.

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National Farmers Union of the UK president Minette Batters posted a vlog on the NFU website laying the battle lines.

“We have been engaging with all levels of government and in the past few weeks, things have massively escalated. The Australians are really laying out a hardline approach to trade, wanting free and frictionless access to our markets, mainly beef, sugar and lamb,” she said.

“We absolutely are remaining focused on holding the Prime Minister – Boris Johnson – to their continuing commitment that they will not undermine farmers in future free-trade agreements.” 

Most staggering was Ms Batters’ claim that our beef imports would flood into their country.
“There are welfare concerns – with Australian livestock production – but my bigger concern is the scale. The average suckler herd – cows that suckle calves for up to 10 months – in this country is of course 30 animals. You are competing with the largest exporter of beef in the world… with huge feedlot systems… of more than 50,000 head. Of course their costs of production are much lower.”

In response, National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson issued a statement, committing Australian farmers to their close relationship with UK cousins, but putting matters straight.

“The volume of Australian red meat to the UK in the context of the UK’s total red-meat imports and Australia’s total exports, is very, very small,” she wrote.

“In 2020, the UK imported 314,000 tonnes of beef, with only 1567 tonnes coming from Australia, about 0.15 percent of all Australian beef exports. In 2020 the UK imported 67,500 tonnes of sheep meat, about 14 percent of which came from Australia.

“The aim of any free-trade agreement is to provide both parties options. Australian red meat producers would like to have the option to export to the UK if and when the UK needs it.”

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!