UFU to give Lords evidence on deal

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Victor Chestnutt will be among the farm stakeholder organisation leaders from across the UK, giving evidence to the House of Lords (today, Wednesday) on the possible impact of the trade deal in principle, recently agreed by the UK and New Zealand.

Also included in the list of those taking part is Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) chairman James Lowe.

The House of Lords’ International Agreements’ committee will explore a range of topics including: the opportunities and risks of the envisaged trade agreement, the impacts on agricultural sectors in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, phase-in periods for zero tariffs, and the consequences of the agreement for the UK’s other negotiations.

Commenting on the envisaged impact of the New Zealand trade deal, Victor Chestnutt said: “UK farming and local food production has been completely undermined by this New Zealand trade deal.

“Combined with the Australia agreement at the beginning of this year, government has granted access to a significant increase of imported food allowing it into our market, with no guarantees about how it was produced or if it meets our world leading standards.

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“To make the situation all the more dire, nothing of substance was gained for our farmers.

“The future of our unique farm family structure across Northern Ireland has become very vulnerable overnight as it could be severely damaged by the market access government has granted to both New Zealand and Australia.

“It’s extremely concerning for our red meat, dairy and horticulture farm sectors and for the public.

“Our consumers who take pride in supporting local farmers for the work that they do producing high-quality, trustworthy, local food, looking after the environment and boosting employment in rural areas, have been sold-out too.”

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He continued: “No attempt of communication was made by government as to how they would work to protect our local food production while trying to get a trade deal with New Zealand over the line. Farm businesses across Northern Ireland and the whole of the UK, are already enduring substantially higher input costs in comparison to those farmers on the other side of the world and are dealing with ongoing labour availability.

“It seems that government are either oblivious to what farmers are dealing with or have chosen to dismiss it as they have created unfair competition within our home market which will affect the sustainability of our family farms in years to come.

“Now going forward, government is expecting our farmers to maintain the same high standards while meeting raising production costs and compete against two of the biggest exporting countries in the world minus the long-term, appropriate agri support that is needed to be able to do this.

“New Zealand and Australia are renowned world exporters because of the strategic farming investments made by their governments, the UK needs to adopt a similar approach to safeguard and strengthen our agri-food production.”

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According to the UFU president, it is very hard to see the positives of the trade deal and other countries will be watching this development with a growing drive to secure a similar agreement.

He concluded: “Government must explain the rationale behind this new trade deal with New Zealand immediately, highlighting how it will benefit UK agriculture, our world leading standards and the future of local food production.”