Montgomeryshire farmers and Farmers Union of Wales officials met with local MP Craig Williams and UK Trade Policy Minister Greg Hands to bolster industry concerns over the deal free trade with Australia.
Australian farms, Union officials have pointed out, enjoy significant advantages in terms of economies of scale, with the average farm size in Australia being 10,700 acres compared to an average Welsh farm size of 125 acres.
They also pointed out that 65% of Australian cattle farms have between 100 and 400 head of cattle, and farms with more than 5,400 head of cattle account for 30% of the country’s beef cattle. This compares to an average Welsh herd size of around 30.
Speaking after the virtual meeting, FUW Montgomeryshire Livestock, Wool and Marts committee delegate Mark Williams said: “The proposed trade deal between the UK and Australia would result in an immediate nine-fold increase in the quota of importation of Australian beef, reaching the equivalent of a 29-fold increase in year 10, and a 45-fold increase in year 15. For lamb, there would be an immediate doubling of the quota. import, reaching the equivalent of a six-fold increase in year 10 and a nine-fold increase in year 15.
The UK government’s own figures estimate the economic benefits for the UK from such a deal to be between 0.01% and 0.02% of GDP over 15 years – an average of just 0.001% of UK GDP per year – and that UK exports to Australia will grow by just 7.3% compared to increases in imports from Australia of 83.2%.
“It is therefore clear that while the economic benefits of the proposed deal are close to zero for the UK as a whole, they are likely to be severe for the farming communities of Wales and the industries that depend on them, while compromising our food safety, and global animal health and welfare and environmental standards, ”he added.
Such negative impacts, Mr Williams said, would of course be exacerbated by new trade deals with other major agricultural producing countries – deals for which the Australia deal will set a precedent.
FUW Policy Officer Teleri Fielden added: “The importation of these food products is also likely to compromise access to our main export markets on the continent, as the EU seeks to ensure that the Kingdom -Uni does not become a back door for Australian imports by increasing the post. -Non-tariff Brexit barriers which have already led to a halving of food exports from the United Kingdom to the EU in the first quarter of 2021.
‘The value of developing existing markets and finding new markets for all UK products, including our food, is of course recognized, but this must not come at the expense of the long-term viability of the agro-industries. Wales’ food and agricultural, environmental and animal health and welfare standards.
Last week, former Australian trade negotiator and founder of explitrade.com, Dmitry Grozoubinski, told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that “it kinda seems the goal here was to have an agreement in principle when Australian Prime Minister Morrison’s visit to the G7, which is an objective but not necessarily a very forward-thinking way of doing trade policy ”.
He added that “Welsh farmers are right to be worried in the long term. The government will have ceded its ability to use tariffs to protect them against the compression of domestic producers or the substitution of imports from the EU) ”.
He said: “As a very simple example, Australian beef exports to the United States have grown 627% over the past 20 years. If you look at the numbers 20 years ago, Australia was not an entity in the US market; it now hovers around a third in value and very high in tonnage.
The Union has launched an online petition tool to allow members and the public to contact their local MPs, voicing concerns about the free trade agreement. The lobbying tool can be accessed here: https://fuw.org.uk/en/policy/contact-your-mp