The PM’s promise to give Ugandan beef a place on UK tables reveals his true position on the protection of production standards after Brexit, says Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru Ceredigion MP.
The next few weeks and months will see a renewed focus on the debate about the future of food production in Wales, and across the UK, as the Agriculture Bill enters its committee stage in Westminster.
While the responsibility for the development of Welsh agriculture policy lies with the Senedd, the legislation as agreed in Westminster will have a long-lasting impact on the future of farming in Wales.
Getting the Bill right will be crucial to ensure minimal disruption to supplies after leaving the EU and while new trade deals are sought.
From Welsh lamb and beef, to our excellent dairy products, Welsh food is known globally for its high standards and quality of taste.
So there is understandably an acute sense of concern among the farming community that the Bill as it stands lacks a binding commitment to prevent trade deals allowing the import of food produced to lower standards.
That’s why it is crucial the farming community is fully engaged in the process of determining equivalence in standards when it comes to international trade agreements.
Otherwise, we could see a situation whereby Welsh farmers strive to produce quality food in a sustainable manner, only for their efforts to be undermined by the import of products not produced to equivalent environmental and animal welfare standards.
The Prime Minister’s commitment in his written statement last week to maintain existing sanitary and phytosanitary measures was welcome.
However, I fear this will be worthless if it doesn’t come hand-in-hand with a commitment to ensuring produce of a lower standard will not be imported into the UK.
The words of the Prime Minister at the UK-Africa summit only a few weeks ago does not fill me with hope.
During his speech in Uganda, Mr Johnson proudly proclaimed he had told President Yowri Museveni that his beef cattle will have an honoured place on the tables of post-Brexit Britain.
The key question that farmers in Wales have been raising is how do we ensure standards on production, traceability and welfare at slaughter are going to be upheld without a binding
commitment in agricultural legislation?
Farmers Guardian readers do not need to be reminded that 35 to 40 per cent of all lamb produced in Wales is exported, of which over 90 per cent is destined for the EU market.
Now it seems likely that Welsh farmers will have reduced access to the EU market after the end of next year, it is even more important that we see a commitment in the Agriculture Bill that future trade policy will not also expose them to competition from imports of a lower standard.
Ben can be found tweeting at @BenMLake