The UK meat industry took a battering last week with processors reportedly flying in staff from Ireland, the Government opening up the sector to New Zealand imports and officials mooting a new tax on meat.
The developments follow months of turmoil in the industry where a combination of Brexit and Covid-19 has damaged trade with the EU and sparked an exodus of eastern European workers from abattoirs.
Last week, the Farmers Guardian reported that Irish meat processing staff are being flown into the UK by a major meat processor to keep kill lines operational.
It also reported that other meat processors had closed lamb lines in order to keep beef ones open and quoted NFU Livestock Chairman Richard Findlay as saying UK plants are operating 15-20pc below capacity.
Another blow to the UK meat industry came last week when the government announced a trade deal that gives New Zealand’s beef and sheep meat more access to the British market.
It will see all quotas on lamb lifted after 15 years, but before that there will be a quota of 35,000 tonnes for the first four years, then 50,000 additional tonnes thereafter.
However, the quota will only be accessible once the existing quota that the country has through the WTO of 114,000 tonnes is filled to 90pc, and officials insisted that, as it stands, New Zealand currently use only half of that, and there are also safeguards in place to protect farming.
Under the trade pact, tariffs on dairy products will be gradually eliminated after five years.
It also will end annual tariffs of NZ$14.1m on wine, New Zealand’s largest export to the UK.
The deal has upset British farmers, with National Farmers’ Union President Minette Batters saying “the [UK] government is now asking British farmers to go toe-to-toe with some of the most export-orientated farmers in the world, without the serious, long-term and properly funded investment in UK agriculture that can enable us to do so”.