Sunday, August 14, 2022

Industry fought for a fair deal for farmers

Who am I? Sam McIvor is chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. McIvor wrote this opinion piece ahead of the Government announcement.
The New Zealand Meat Board has been funding innovation, market development and support for 100 years, says CEO Sam McIvor.

I’ve recently returned from the United Kingdom and the European Union where Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has been working to achieve the best possible outcome for our farmers under the new UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and to secure a commercially meaningful deal with the EU.

The UK-NZ FTA is due to be ratified by the UK parliament in January 2023 and our priority between now and then is to ensure that process runs as smoothly as possible.

Our trading ties with the UK span more than a century and last month’s celebrations of NZ’s first successful shipment of frozen meat to London 140 years ago were a testament to our enduring relationship.

During our recent visit, we reinforced our position as a trusted trading partner, with the highest production standards. 

We met with key MPs and industry groups to ensure that there is strong parliamentary support for the FTA and reinforce NZ’s high animal welfare and environmental standards.

The visit also gave us the opportunity to allay any concerns our counterparts may have had around the new FTA and our products flooding the UK market.

We were able to point to the diversity of our markets internationally. 

We export to 120 markets globally and our exporters are focused on building enduring relationships that will, overtime, achieve the best return for each part of the carcase.

We also identified opportunities for collaboration with UK farming groups in achieving our shared goals and overcoming shared challenges.

Read: Big exporters say EU FTA doesn’t shift the dial

UK farmers are facing similar issues around a spate of environmental regulations and negative media coverage.

Climate change was high on the agenda, too. 

There is real interest in promoting GWP* as a more relevant metric to assess livestock’s impact on warming and, like us, a high degree of interest in sequestration, including soil carbon. 

There is a lot of this measurement occurring, particularly in Northern Ireland.

Lastly, we all share the challenge of ensuring that sheep meat and beef is seen as a healthy and nutritious necessity in consumers diets. 

We’ll be working to forge joint initiatives around these issues.

During our visit to the EU, the focus was on supporting the final stages of NZ’s FTA negotiations and ensuring NZ negotiators hold firm and continue to push for a high-quality outcome.

Also read: UK FTA bill enters parliament

The EU’s most sensitive areas in an FTA negotiation are traditionally beef and dairy. 

They tabled a revised market access deal on key products that was far from anything NZ could accept or has ever accepted in an FTA to date.

Our focus while in Europe was emphasising that NZ could not conclude FTA negotiations on anything near that poor offer.

We met with the EU’s lead FTA negotiator and other key officials, MPs and industry groups to emphasise the importance of a commercially meaningful deal on beef. 

Currently, we only have a paltry 846 tonnes of quota access in a market that consumes more 6.5 million tonnes annually.

Trade outside of our current quota is minimal as the EU’s tariffs on beef range between 50-70 %.

In our discussions with NZ’s negotiators, we emphasised the importance of improved access to such a large and high-quality market like the EU. 

This will enable us to further diversify NZ’s market options and support our Trade and Agriculture Ministers vision of moving from volume to value.

More: The New Zealand government has announced that it has signed a deal with the EU. The new beef quota of 3333 tonnes created on entry-into-force, rising to 10,000 tonnes after seven years. New sheep meat quota of 5429 tonnes, rising to 38,000 tonnes after seven years. Existing tariff-free quota of 125,000 tonnes remains, but fails to restore NZ’s pre-Brexit EU quota of 228,000 tonnes.

Following the announcement, McIvor said that the outcome is difficult to reconcile, given the longstanding relationship and shared values between the EU and NZ.

“For over 100 years, our sector has exported safe, nutritious, and high-quality products to Europe. We share common societal values, a commitment to high production standards, and robust regulatory frameworks for food safety and quality, animal welfare, and sustainability. It’s difficult to understand why a more ambitious outcome wasn’t possible,”he said.

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