WELSH farmers have met with UK trade minister Greg Hands to outline their concerns over Britain’s free trade agreement with Australia. 

The deal is the first Britian has struck from scratch since Brexit, but farmers fear it will lead to a massive increase in Australian beef and lamb meat entering the UK market. 

They fear they cannot compete with the size of Australian farms and are concerned at some Australian rules which they also think give an advantage over UK producers. 

Mr Hands held a virtual meeting with members of the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) and NFU Cymru farming union this week, and Powys Conservative MPs Craig Williams and Fay Jones. 

Mark Williams, who is FUW Montgomeryshire’s livestock, wool and marts committee delegate, said of the meeting: “It was a great opportunity for our members to reiterate our concerns very clearly.”   

He said they stressed the size difference between Welsh and Australian farms giving those down under massive advantages when it comes to economies of scale. 

“The average farm size in Australia is 10,700 acres compared with an average Welsh farm size of 125 acres, while 65 per cent of Australian cattle farms have between 100 and 400 head of cattle, and farms of over 5,400 head of cattle account for 30 per cent of the country's beef cattle. This compares to an average Welsh herd size of around 30,” said Williams. 

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Farmers fear as the deal allows big increases in the amount of meat Australian producers can sell into the UK they will be unable to compete as exports increase over the first 15 years of the deal. 

Williams said: “It would see an immediate nine-fold increase in Australia’s beef import quota, rising to the equivalent of a 29 fold increase in year ten, and a 45 fold increase in year 15. For lamb, there would be an immediate doubling of import quotas, rising to the equivalent of a six fold increase in year ten and a nine fold increase in year fifteen.” 

Former Australian trade negotiator Dmitry Grozoubinski last week told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee Welsh farmers were right to be concerned over the deal but also questioned if Australia would “flood the UK market”. 

The UK Government has been keen to strike a deal with Australia as a route into a wider Pacific partnership but farmers are unconvinced of the value of the deal to the British economy with the government’s own figures showing it to be between 0.01 and 0.02 per cent of GDP. 

Williams said: “The economic benefits  the proposed deal are close to zero for the UK as a whole, they are likely to be severe for Wales’ farming communities and the industries that rely on them, while also undermining our food security, and global animal health and welfare and environmental standards.” 

FUW Policy Officer Teleri Fielden said: “The value of developing existing and seeking new markets for all UK products, including our food, is of course recognised, but this must not be done at the cost of the long term viability of Wales’ food and farming industries, the environment and animal health and welfare standards.” 

Today the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster will hear from Minister Greg Hands as it takes evidence on the implications for Wales of a free trade deal with Australia. 

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