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New Zealand trade deal ‘could impact NI market’

Family farm structure will now be vulnerable, says farmers chief

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The deal allows New Zealand farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards. Stock image

The deal allows New Zealand farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards. Stock image

The deal allows New Zealand farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards. Stock image

Northern Ireland farmers have said that a new trade deal struck by the UK and New Zealand could “severely undermine” the market in Northern Ireland by allowing an influx of cheaper meat to be imported.

The Ulster Farmers Union added that the family farm structure here has become “vulnerable practically overnight” and certain farming sectors have been “sold-out”.

The deal allows New Zealand farmers to undercut British farmers by shipping in meat produced to lower welfare standards.

It has been suggested that the deal could reduce the size of the UK economy, but with the effects unlikely to spread evenly, it could mean that Northern Ireland – which depends highly on the agriculture industry – could be hit worst.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “UK farming and local food production has been completely undermined by this New Zealand trade deal.

“Combined with the Australia agreement at the beginning of this year, government has granted access to a significant increase of imported food allowing it into our market, with no guarantees about how it was produced or if it meets our world leading standards.”

Mr Chestnutt said that it is “extremely concerning” for the red meat, dairy and horticulture farm sectors and for the public.

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“Our consumers – who take pride in supporting local farmers for the work that they do producing high-quality, trustworthy, local food, looking after the environment and boosting employment in rural areas – have been sold out too,” he said.

“No attempt of communication was made by government as to how they would work to protect our local food production while trying to get a trade deal with New Zealand over the line.

“Farm businesses across Northern Ireland and the whole of the UK, are already enduring substantially higher input costs in comparison to those farmers on the other side of the world and are dealing with ongoing labour availability.

“It seems that government are either oblivious to what farmers are dealing with or have chosen to dismiss it as they have created unfair competition within our home market which will affect the sustainability of our family farms in years to come.”

The UFU president is now urging the British government to adopt similar approaches to New Zealand and Australia, which invest in strategic farming, in order to safeguard and strengthen British agri-food production.

“As it stands, it is very hard to see the positives of this trade deal and other countries will be watching this development with a growing drive to secure a similar agreement,” said Mr Chestnutt. “Government must explain the rationale behind this new trade deal with New Zealand immediately, highlighting how it will benefit UK agriculture, our world leading standards and the future of local food production.”


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