In the debate about the benefits of a UK trade deal with the US, the American practice – currently banned in the UK – of washing chicken produce in chlorine has played a central role.
Now in what is being hailed as a “significant step forwards” by the National Farmers’ Union, the government has proposed a ‘dual tariff’ that imposes varying levels of duty on imported foods, based on whether they comply with UK animal welfare protocols.
Higher tariffs would be imposed on foods produced to lower welfare standards, such as hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken, in order to protect British farming.
The proposal, revealed by the Daily Telegraph, will be part of the UK’s ongoing trade negotiations with the US, which has yet to react to the plan.
Food import 'dependence'
The ‘dual tariff’ news comes as a study warned of the UK’s “dangerous dependence” on imported fruit and vegetables from a handful of European countries.
The report on the effects of COVID-19 on the UK’s food system, published in the journal Nature Food yesterday (Thursday, 4 June), highlights weak domestic production and a reliance on sea freight across the Strait of Dover.
A piece headlined ‘Vulnerability of the United Kingdom’s food supply chains exposed by COVID-19’ reveals that half of Britain’s food is imported, including 84% of the country’s fresh fruit.
Feeding the UK population relies on friction-less trade with areas such as Andalusia and Mercia in Southern Spain, the report says. Together, the Netherlands and Spain provide 60% of the UK’s fresh vegetables.
'Good EU trade deal needed'
The report by academics concludes that “it is clear we need a new strategic plan to re-orientate the UK food system to grow more food sustainably in the UK”.
Bob Doherty, of the University of York and co-author of the report, told the Times that the findings emphasised the importance of the UK achieving a good trade deal with the EU, especially given new restrictions on migrant seasonal workers.