A free-trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand could be on the cards following a meeting in Brussels.
The UK is understood to be one of the main supporters of a deal, with foreign investment in New Zealand already attracting the interest of British companies.
But agriculture could be one of the agreement’s main sticking points. Before seeking a mandate from EU member states to launch negotiations, the Commission will make an impact assessment taking into account ‘agricultural sensitivities’.
New Zealand’s lamb imports to the UK have been high on news agendas this year. Outrage was sparked when an AHDB survey revealed Tesco’s facings of British lamb on shelves in August were just 58 per cent, with New Zealand produce playing a part.
Charles Sercombe, livestock board chairman at the NFU, suggested there was nervousness currently in the UK sheep sector about the impact of continuing New Zealand imports to UK supermarkets.
He said: “We will not know the impact [of a free trade agreement] until you get down to the finite negotiations. There is a feeling we need to make sure we do not jeopardise our markets.
“We have asked the EU to look at the impact of the current quota [for New Zealand imports].”