Farming union boss: Australia trade deal may undermine UK farmers

24 May 2021, 09:38

By Eleanor Walsh

The president of the National Farmers' Union has warned that a trade deal due to be signed between the UK and Australia could undermine British food producers and dismissed suggestions that their fears are "childish."

Minette Batters has called for “safeguard measures” for British farmers after it was announced that the UK will sign a trade deal with Australia to allow for tariff free imports of Australian beef.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari this morning, Ms Batters raised concerns that the agreement could undermine the UK’s farming industry.

The president of the union said that Australian farmers could have an advantage due to the scale of their farms and called on the British government to focus on ensuring a “balanced approach” is achieved and that the “economic analysis stacks up”.

READ MORE: Concerns over Australia-UK trade deal are 'childish', says ex-commissioner

She explained that more relaxed regulations in Australia mean that farmers are permitted to use “massive feedlot systems” which reduce the cost of meat.

She said a new trade deal between the two nations “could work” but suggested Britain might need a multi million pound investment in exporting to compete with countries such as Australia, adding, “Australia has agricultural councillors across the world - we have one”.

She stressed that she wants British farmers to remain the “no 1 supplier to the UK market”.

One major concern of the deal is that hormone injected beef from Australian producers could make its way into the UK supply chain, however No10 has insisted that the quality of produce on sale will not be compromised.

Ms Batters’ comments come after it was announced last week that the Trade Secretary Liz Truss has formally offered a trade deal to her Australian counterpart which would see taxes on Australian imports phased out during a 15 year transition period.

It was reported that this has come after an internal struggle between the minister and the Environment Secretary George Eustice who has expressed his concerns about the change to regulations.

It is estimated that the new trade deal could lead to a 0.025% growth in GDP. Truss is hoping to secure an agreement in principle ahead of the G7 summit which takes place in Cornwall in June.