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UK-Australia Tariff-free Trade in Agricultural Goods

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 15 July 2021

What assessment she has made of the potential effect of tariff-free trade of agricultural goods between the UK and Australia on UK farmers and crofters. (902802)

There will be more UK export opportunities for our food and drink industry with the removal of all Australia tariffs. We have considered the impact of additional market access for beef and lamb on UK farmers, which has been balanced by a lengthy 15-year staging period. An independently scrutinised impact assessment will be published prior to implementation.

Patrick Krause, chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Foundation, recently made the point that the real risk for Scottish crofters from the Australia deal comes from the fact that other countries with which we do trade deals will want the same good terms that we have given to Australia. As he said,

“Crofting is good for food, and also has very impressive environmental and climate-change mitigation credentials. And crofting is about the people—crofting has maintained communities in remote rural places.”

How much of that does the Minister think will be said of the products that will be imported to replace crofted lamb?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his engagement and his interest. I have engaged extensively with Scottish farmers, crofters and Martin Kennedy of the National Farmers Union Scotland. I have done various roundtables with constituency MPs as well. On the impact of Australian beef and lamb imports, we think it is very unlikely that there will be a surge in imports into this country. Currently, there are strong incentives for Australia to sell into Asia. For example, the lamb quota is not currently fully used. Beef production prices in Asia are twice what they are in the UK. Australia exports 75% of its beef and 70% of its lamb to Asia, which is why I would expect that pattern to be continued. But this is also why we have built safeguards and a staging period of 15 years into the deal.