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British Farmers: Global Exports

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

4. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903684)

10. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903690)

16. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903703)

Our trade agreements are lowering tariffs and unlocking new opportunities for food exporters and the farmers that supply them. The Department for International Trade supports such businesses to capitalise on those opportunities, expand into new markets and sell fantastic British produce overseas.

Our fantastic farmers in Cumbria and the wider UK produce world-class food with the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. We should be very proud of that—we can be a beacon to the rest of the world. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give to the farmers in Penrith and The Border and throughout the UK that those high standards will be upheld in future trade deals, and that meaningful parliamentary scrutiny will be possible, not least through the urgent establishment of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission?

Just as the Cumbrian farmers are doing well, may I say how proud I am of my Northumbrian farmers who, just across the way, are similarly producing some of the finest food in the world? My hon. Friend is quite right: the new Trade and Agriculture Commission will play an important role in scrutinising trade agreements after signature. Applications are being considered and we hope to be able to announce the membership and the details very shortly. The commission will be in place to scrutinise, first of all, the free trade agreement with Australia when we sign it.

Export markets are increasing for Welsh farmers as we look to the US market for lamb opening up once more. There is also the export success of farms in my constituency of Clwyd South, such as Knolton farmhouse cheese and the increased beef exports by the Rhug estate. Will my right hon. Friend redouble her efforts to ensure that future trade deals open up even more global markets for Welsh and UK farmers?

Wales produces some of the UK’s most iconic food products and we have already unlocked new markets to increase opportunities—for example, gaining access for UK lamb, poultry and beef to Japan. We want to unlock even more opportunities for Welsh farmers and exporters and we will be working closely with the Welsh farming industry as we seek to do so.

On behalf of my constituent, Irene Fowlie, may I thank the Department, along with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for its help in facilitating the export of high-quality pedigree Essie Suffolk sheep to Georgia earlier this year? May I ask my right hon. Friend, whom I welcome to her new role, how we can improve access to new export routes for other high-quality agricultural produce, particularly from Scotland?

My hon. Friend is a great champion of all the wonderful produce coming out of Scotland and I thank him for his continued efforts. He will be pleased to know that we launched the export support service on 1 October, which will be there to help existing and potentially new exporters with some of those new markets. We have also established a new team in Edinburgh, which is building great networks, and we are committed to enhancing our support for businesses across Scotland to help us showcase the amazing goods and services from every corner of that nation.

The House will be aware of the problems facing UK pig farmers; pigs are sadly being culled on farms, partly because of a shortage of labour, but also because of the closure of markets to China. Other European countries have managed to reopen those markets, but the UK has signally failed to do so. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that diplomatic failure?

I will happily pick that up and make sure that the team from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gives the hon. Gentleman the most up-to-date information on those pork markets, but we continue to work with all our farmers to make sure that they are able to move their goods to new markets.

Let me begin by welcoming the Secretary of State to her new role. May I associate myself with the remarks that she made about the late David Amess. He was an enthusiastic and lively participant in International Trade questions, as he was with everything that he turned his mind to.

I also look forward to studying the Secretary of State’s response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission report, which I have just learned will be released with a written ministerial statement later today.

On page 54 of the International Trade Department’s June 2020 paper on the strategic approach to free trade with New Zealand, it forecast that an agreement along the lines that I understand the Government announced last night will cause

“a reduction in output and employment…in the UK agriculture sector.”

Does that remain the Secretary of State’s forecast for the impact of last night’s deal?

I will be making an oral statement to the House shortly and I am sure that we all look forward to discussing this issue in more detail. I am very confident that the deal that we struck will provide the opportunity for our wonderful food producers to continue to sell their goods across the world, and, as we make more trade deals, create new markets for them.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but it does rather illustrate why we need a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to provide an independent assessment. After all, last November, the previous Secretary of State told the National Farmers’ Union in Wales:

“We have no intention of ever striking a deal that doesn’t benefit farmers, but we have provided checks and balances in the form of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the new TAC will be asked to examine the proposed deals with Australia and New Zealand and tell us simply whether these deals benefit our farmers?

The new TAC will be charged with some very clear direction, and given independence for it to be able to scrutinise both the Australian and New Zealand trade deals and all the other trade deals that we are looking to strike in the months and years ahead.