UK farmers 'very concerned' by reports of slashed agricultural tariffs being offered to the US

Thu 14 May 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

pig farmers

The government is said to be preparing to cut tariffs on agricultural imports from the US in a “big concession” to secure a trade deal, a report denied by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The claims, reported in the FT this morning, has already caused concern in the UK’s agricultural sectors.

Nick von Westenholz, director of EU exit and international trade at the National Farmers Union, said farmers will be “very concerned” by the move, especially as they struggle “to manage huge volatility” caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“Any concessions UK negotiators give on market access – such as lower or zero tariffs on agricultural goods – must be accompanied by clear conditions on how those goods have been produced,” he told the Daily Update (14 May).

“Anything else would represent a clear breach of the government’s own explicit red lines in trade negotiations.”

The government has previously said it would “not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

The move to cut tariffs would form part of a “big concession package” to lure the US into agreeing a deal, an unnamed government official told the FT.

Concession package

DIT deny the reports with an official saying in the FT that it is “too early” for tariff changes to be discussed and the department is seeking a “deal that works for the whole UK, including our farmers.”

The NFU have said that for a trade deal to have a “net benefit” for farmers, government must “set out clearly what additional access has been granted by US negotiators” and this must “at a minimum compensate for the loss of market at home.”

The UK and US began talks by virtual teleconferencing calls last week as both countries are still imposing travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pigs fly

Meanwhile US meat exports have soared during the coronavirus pandemic, despite reports that the sector is struggling to meet domestic demand due to coronavirus outbreaks at processing plants, which have left many workers ill.

The Meat Export Federation in the US said pork exports increased by 40% for the first three months of the year, with beef and chicken rising 9% and 8%, report the Boston Herald.

Shipments to China and Japan have soared, according to the US Department of Agriculture, while exports to Mexico and Canada have remained strong.