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Farming Matters: “The industry’s very survival is being jeopardised by the proposed trade deal with Australia”

The disastrous impact the looming Australia Trade Deal will have on farming was debated in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 8th of June.

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Orkney Constituency MSP, Liam McArthur LibDem, warned of its consequences for the islands farmers. He said that there was ‘understandable concern’ and :

” that a succession of tariff-free deals might have undercut farmers in Orkney and across the UK. Moreover, it has implications for the UK meeting its aspirations in terms of climate change, habitat improvement and the protection of wildlife.

“Striking trade deals is essential for our future prosperity, but they cannot be allowed to hang certain sectors out to dry. Given the importance of farming to the future of many of our rural and island areas, UK Ministers need to take more account of the concerns being raised by NFU Scotland and others before signing on the dotted line.”

Liam McArthur also voiced his objection to proposed restrictions to live animal transport from the islands to mainland Scotland.

The debate was brought to The Scottish Parliament by Jim Fairlie MSP, SNP, who was himself a farmer and who is still a member of the National Farmers Union of Scotland.

Jim Fairlie has met with NFU Scotland to discuss their concerns with the tariff free Australia deal which would ‘seriously impact the farming and the rural communities that it supports’.

Jim Fairlie said:

“The industry’s very survival is being jeopardised by the proposed trade deal with Australia in exactly the same way as happened with the American and Canadian liberalisation deals almost 100 years ago.”

He continued

“Scotland’s red meat sales to the EU in 2019, pre-Brexit, were £87 million. In the same year, red meat sales to Australia were £142,000. In other words, we would need to do more than 600 Australia-sized deals just to match what we previously had. To describe that as a major opportunity is utterly laughable.”

Jim Fairlie pointed out that ” 90 per cent of red meat that is currently served in schools is Scotch” and argued that “if the deal goes through, and if it is followed by all the other shoddily prepared deals, we should recommend that no meat products go on to the menus for our children if they have been imported from any of the hormone-injecting, intensive feed lot system countries that Westminster is currently falling over itself to do deals with.”

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government , Màiri McAllan, The Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform said:

“The Scottish Government and the farming community believe that there are, as yet, no meaningful safeguards in place to prevent our farmers from being undercut by cheaper and lower-standard products.

“The Scottish Government has been consistently clear. All imports of Australian agrifood must be produced to standards that are equivalent to those in Scotland. Any increase in imports must be managed by tariff rate quotas. Our farmers, and our world-leading climate action, demand that and it must be a priority. Any deal must not be agreed simply for political reasons—we know that that would not be financially viable. We will continue liaising with the devolved Administrations and the farming sector and will press for an urgent change in position.

“I make a call again to the UK Government. First, I ask it to respond to a letter sent by my colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, three weeks ago, to which we have had no response. I call for a rethink that will protect farmers across the UK and prioritise our natural environment and I call on it to engage with us, so that the Scottish Government and members from across the chamber can do what we were elected to do: represent the people of our country and build a future for Scotland that is based on our values and priorities.”

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You can watch the debate here:

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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