Beef + Lamb northern North Island director Martin Coup was part of a primary sector delegation led by the New Zealand International Business Forum that discussed ongoing trade in a climate of uncertainty and paved the way for a NZ-European Union free-trade agreement.
Trade Minister David Parker joined the group in Europe.
Martin says they met several of the people working hard on behalf of NZ producers to retain and grow access into these key markets.
They included B+LNZ and Meat Industry Association Brexit response manager Jeff Grant, B+LNZ market access manager Ben O’Brien, Primary Industries Ministry representative Chris Carson from the Ministry and Chris Kebble from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“I don’t think people realise the work that is being done to protect NZ’s interests by the MPI and MFAT staff based in Europe as well as those specifically representing the red meat sector,” Coup said.
“O’Brien and Grant are working together to strengthen the red meat sector’s relationship with the United Kingdom to safeguard NZ’s exports into that market and have impressive relationships with the NZ officials based there and European industry groups.
“We don’t want to be worse off as a result of Brexit.”
A free-trade agreement with the EU would be the big prize.
Martin says trade deals are inevitably a long, slow process but he believes there are huge opportunities for NZ red meat, particularly for high quality beef cuts.
NZ’s market access is constrained by quotas, including a small, 1300-tonne quota for high-quality beef. The Europeans prefer high-quality beef produced with strong environmental credentials. Consequently, the EU is a market NZ is well placed to target if it has better access
But there could be resistance from European farmers who are 102% self-sufficient in beef production and they don’t welcome other countries entering the market though NZ tends to target the premium end of the market and its volumes are small compared to EU production.
There are 11 million farms in the EU and the average herd size is just 31 cattle. A 1000-cow dairy herd would be considered industrial farming. The average nitrate loss across all European farms is 60kg/ha compared to an average of just 17kg/ha for NZ sheep and beef farms.
Water quality and greenhouse gas reduction dominate the media in the EU and Britain.
The EU and Britain are following NZ’s approach to addressing agricultural emissions closely. But a big difference is with mitigation. Their farmers get subsidies through the Common Agriculture Policy to fix it while Kiwi farmers have to pay for it themselves.
In the UK there is huge uncertainty around Brexit and with an impending split from the EU so UK farmers are now setting their sights on other export markets such as China.
When Brexit happens, NZ’s sheep meat quotas will be split between the EU and the UK but the European market looks strong with buyers competing for lamb because of tightening global supplies.