Former NFU president and AHDB chair Sir Peter Kendall admitted he was ‘not confident’ that the Government would reject imported food produced to lower standards but fearful they may go instead for ‘bucketshop’ deals. Peter Hollinshead reports.
Speaking at last week’s Dairy-Tech event at Stoneleigh, he said: “One of the biggest things that keeps me awake at night is the idea that we go and do bucketshop trade deals that undermine British agriculture at exactly the time we need to be strengthening our farming with sustainable, environmentally-friendly production.
“On the question of the risk of us becoming a dumping ground, I have listened to every nuanced answer from ministers going back to Liam Fox, and now Dominic Raab, and they are very keen to say we will not drop our standards here in the UK. What they are very careful not to do is to say we will impose those standards on all imports.
“It is that gap which leaves us massively exposed and if we cannot convince the electorate to put these politicians in place that buying food that is not produced to our welfare and environmental standards, and also to a degree to our safety standards as well, we are in trouble.
"We have to get on the front foot to do this and that is a big challenge for us.”
When asked about the Government’s seeming drive latterly to inaugurate free trade with other countries, most recently Australia where imports could come in without tarrifs, he was equally condemnatory that it would mean the higher UK standards would then simply be a burden on UK producers.
“Absolutely, and that is why it is the most critical issue – that is why we cannot have us having high cost systems which are great for the environment and for consumers, and then we find cheaper food being brought in which does not meet those standards. That is a mad way to carry on.
“We have to make the case and go and explain to the electorate and MPs the damage this will do. The notion we up our game here and then import food from countries which have not got relevant environmental climate change ambitions would be insane and look illogical.”