The National Sheep Association (NSA) has said it would be ‘unforgivable’ if Government trade decisions destroyed the UK’s sheep industry after it became clear Australia was pressing for greater access to British markets after Brexit.
The push from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) was revealed in its submission to an Australian committee which has been tasked with looking into the country’s trading relationship with the UK.
The group pointed to the UK’s position as one of Australia’s largest export destinations for red meat prior to its joining the EU, and complained about the union’s ‘highly restrictive’ import regime which had ‘severely curtailed’ Australian exports to the UK.
MLA’s submission read: “Brexit provides an unprecedented opportunity for the Australian red meat industry to enhance its trading relationship with the UK.
“A more liberalised UK import regime… would deliver substantial advantages, not only to the Australian red meat industry, but to UK importers, wholesalers, distributors, food service and retail operators as well as consumers – all of whom value Australia’s beef and sheepmeat products for their consistent and predictable quality.”
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker told Farmers Guardian there were ‘major flaws’ in MLA’s arguments to increase exports to the UK.
“The one category of stakeholders they left out in the list of people who would benefit are our farmers – there is no mention of the devastating impact this would have on them”, he said.
“This example outlines the extreme danger of free trade agreements with these major sheep producing nations if we do not give special consideration to our domestic industry.
“Overall, there is no space for more sheepmeat to come into the UK, particularly when we are being encouraged to produce to higher than average environmental and welfare standards which we are told our public want to support.
“It will be unforgivable if Government trade decisions destroy our sheep industry, and absolute madness if they drive us to capitalise on niche and branded export markets while we feed ourselves with cheaper products from around the world.”