The Government set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) ‘two years too late’, the group’s chairman has said.
Tim Smith told the online NFU conference it had occurred to him a ‘couple of times’ during the course of the commission’s work that Ministers would have been better prepared if the recommendations had been made in advance of certain big decisions on trade.
He was responding to a question from NFU Sugar Board member Tom Clarke, who asked whether the UK’s decision to place zero tariffs on a very significant volume of raw sugar cane imports would undermine the domestic, sustainable, sugar beet industry.
Mr Smith said: “We are trying to balance the tensions of liberalising trade with retaining the right standards and at the same time protecting the interests of those people who are growing the crops, feeding the livestock and taking those goods to market.
“In July 2020 when we were set up, we were probably two years too late. It would have been better if we had been able to establish the principles, the strategies and the recommendations we have got in our report.
“That would have helped Government see round the corners when it came to some of those issues.”
Earlier in the conference, Defra Secretary George Eustice said he thought there was a bright future for the domestic sugar industry now the Government had issued an emergency authorisation for neonicotinoids to tackle virus yellows.
“British Sugar is now probably among the most efficient sugar producers in the world, he said.
“Huge technical gains have been made over the last decade or so.”