Farming resilience and environment at risk as agriculture ignored in trade ministers’ portfolios

05 August 2016

Failure to secure strong trade opportunities for agricultural products will put UK food security and the environment at risk, the CLA is warning after agriculture was ignored in yesterday’s Department for International Trade Ministerial portfolio announcement.

The CLA's warning comes in the context of a history of agriculture being treated as a low priority or excluded from international trade negotiations.

In collaboration with Scottish Land & Estates, the CLA has today published a briefing which explores the opportunities for agriculture and forestry trade outside the EU and also sets out the risks if trade declines substantially following Brexit.

CLA Director General Helen Woolley said: "Leaving the EU can be an opportunity for businesses across the countryside. We have great entrepreneurs and great products. If the conditions are right we will thrive. But those conditions will not come about without careful planning and tough negotiations.

"Nowhere is that more the case than in agriculture. It is notoriously difficult to establish open trade deals for farming products. It is seriously alarming that no Government minister has been given specific responsibility to deliver it. We now seek urgent reassurance that the Government will deliver for our farmers and rural producers. We expect the Department for International Trade to start working together with us straight away and this is a terrible start.

“There are serious consequences if we don’t get this right. We could see food prices rising and the nation’s food security may be compromised. The environment could start to suffer and many farms and manufacturers could go out of business.

“Farmers and other food producers want to provide the country with a safe, secure supply of food. Land managers want to carry on their good work improving nature and wildlife, helping to tackle climate change and managing the UK’s distinctive landscapes. This is why it is so important that ministers assure us all that securing the best deal for food and farming will be a high priority and not an afterthought in their trade negotiations.”

The CLA briefing sets out the five objectives for a trade policy that will allow UK farmers and rural businesses to compete on an international platform:

  • Opening new markets: Ministers must ensure that wherever new trade deals are struck, they are creating opportunity for food producers and manufacturers
  • Growing existing markets at home and abroad: Discussions with the EU must negotiate the best possible access to the EU market for our food and drink products
  • Delivering the best deals for UK consumers: The right balance must be struck between maximising opportunity for people to buy and consume food grown, reared and manufactured in the UK as well as allowing opportunity to buy the best of produce from around the world
  • Equipping businesses to compete: Businesses will need the skills, knowledge and ambition to seek out markets elsewhere in the world
  • Improving farmer resilience: As well asopportunity, trading in a global market place can bring risks through the impacts of climate change and changing geopolitical situations

Read the CLA's report: New Opportunities: The case for a trade policy that equips rural businesses to compete in the world