OPINION: Last week’s announcement of a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the UK drew predictable howls of outrage from UK farmers.
Already reeling from the effects of Brexit, the prospect of reduced tariffs and increased competition was seen by some as yet another nail in the coffin of their farming industry.
Their concerns were not that New Zealand wine, onions and kiwi fruit would be a few cents cheaper, but the prospect of our dairy products and our lamb entering their supermarkets without being burdened with tariffs or quotas.
New Zealand is clearly the short-term winner of this deal. The UK is our seventh largest trading partner, while we rank 53rd on their long list, accounting for just 0.2% of their trade.
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The UK government takes a much longer view, seeing the deal as proof of good faith and a stepping stone to being accepted into the CPTPPTA, a club that provides far greater benefits than those currently available with its existing trade deals.
While I was prepared for UK farmers to be angry – and to be fair most of their anger was directed at their own government and not at Kiwi farmers – I was unprepared for the disinformation campaign quickly launched through their own food standards certification program. , Red Tractor.
Red Tractor’s bright infographic, titled “Comparison of Legal Farm Standards,” was a mishmash of half-truths, unfounded statements and outright lies.
It was quickly seized by the British and widely shared on social media as a tool to berate the British government and demonize New Zealand farmers.
Red Tractor would have you believe New Zealand agriculture is based on growth hormones, dangerous herbicides and a blind disregard for animal welfare. He claims that we dehorn animals without anesthesia, that we don’t care how long they spend in a truck, and that our lambs are way too old when tied up.
As a farewell, they say cameras are not needed in our slaughterhouses.
Red Tractor’s first claim that the growth hormone ractopamine is legal in New Zealand while being banned in Britain is somewhat true.
Its use is here prohibited in sheep and beef but legal in pork. I don’t know why that would bother your average UK buyer, because our pork industry is so small, only 93 producers, that we import 60 percent of our pork.
No New Zealand pig will ever see the inside of a UK supermarket.
They are also a little right about the paraquat. Although banned in the UK, its use here is restricted and controlled as a herbicide of last resort for resistant weeds, but this is where Red Tractor’s series of partial mistakes abruptly ends.
Pain relief is required for disbudding and dehorning animals of all ages, livestock transport times are strictly regulated and monitored, and CCTV is required in processing plants where meat is destined for production. human consumption. Of course, veterinarians are also present in all these factories.
His claim about the mooring of the lamb is a transparent attempt to portray the New Zealand lamb as cruel while totally ignoring the differences between our systems.
British sheep lamb inside, giving the farmer constant access to young stock.
New Zealand sheep lamb outdoors in a natural pastoral environment, free to exhibit its natural behavior. Any attempt to intervene too early for the mooring could result in the lambs being abandoned by their mothers. Each country takes the right approach for its own system.
Apart from irresponsible fear campaigns, what should UK farmers be worried about about this free trade deal? Regarding dairy products, nothing. It’s not about putting blocks of cheese in your local Aldi’s refrigerators – we haven’t exported consumer dairy products to the UK for over a decade, and we’re not about to to begin.
It’s about ingredients. The UK is the world’s second largest importer of dairy products, but accounts for less than 1 percent of New Zealand’s dairy exports.
This agreement will give us the opportunity to replace some of the ingredients the UK already imports with our own ingredients. The UK will still buy the same amount of dairy from overseas, we just plan to buy more from New Zealand.
As for lamb, New Zealand lamb and British lamb are currently priced the same in UK supermarkets. While this may change with the eventual reduction in fares, you must remember that our seasons are very different. New Zealand lamb is popular at Christmas, when it is the season, just as British lamb is popular at Easter.
However, I have a solution for worried UK farmers. If you can put a Welsh leg of lamb in my supermarket for the same price as the locally grown lamb, I’ll gladly buy some to see what it’s all about. After all, consumer choice is one of the joys of living in a global economy.
– Craig Hickman is an Equity Manager at a 1,000-cow dairy farm in central Canterbury.