British farmers are warning of serious damage to UK agriculture if Australian beef and lamb producers are granted tariff-free access to the UK as part of a major post-
Brexit trade deal. The farmers fear a big increase in imports of more cheaply produced Australian beef and lamb which they say would drive down standards. The UK exported food and drink products worth £425m to Australia in 2020, while importing £384m worth of Australian food and drink, according to analysis of HMRC figures by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Wine accounted for the majority of imports from Australia, worth £280m, with lamb and mutton imports worth £46m in second place.
The National Sheep Association has expressed concerns about bringing in lamb from Australia, which it claims is often produced in ways that the British public wouldn’t tolerate in the UK.
The Department for International Trade has discounted such suggestions. A statement issued promised: “Any deal we sign with Australia will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards.
We will continue to work with the industry, keeping them involved throughout the process and helping it capture the full benefits of trade.” UK curry restaurants will be watching developments with alarm as the industry has built up a good relationship with British farmers, who supply thousands of Asian halal meat shops and Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants, as well as British Asian families who prefer not to buy frozen meat or chicken but always buy from halal butcher shops in their local town. The worry is, if Australian meat has a cheaper price, then some will take advantage, selling defrosted beef and lamb to these butchers as fresh halal. There are many who still remember the impact the horse meat scandal had on spice restaurants who were unfairly made to pay the price for others’ unscrupulous behaviour.
British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali said, ‘”There is a particular worry that the government has not ruled out the possibility that hormone-injected beef will be exported from Australia to the UK as part of the free trade deal between the countries”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, when asked, did not give a commitment on the issue, but simply suggested it would not “compromise on our animal welfare or food standards.” The industry needs to monitor the details of any trade deal very closely.