Trade challenges discussed at World Dairy Summit

Speaking at the IDF Summit in Belfast, Tomas Pietrangeli, UK managing director of Arla Foods, stated that the industry was facing “the biggest seismic change in the political and financial landscape in our lifetime.”

He went on to say, ”The end of free trade is a major risk. In order to protect the health of the dairy industry in the UK we need to have tariff-free and barrier free trading conditions.

“We are a business and an industry that make a significant contribution to the dairy industry and the wider UK economy.”

An independent economic impact assessment of Arla’s UK business had shown that the company generated £6 billion (€6.7bn) gross value added to the UK economy, and direct and indirect jobs totalled nearly 120,000.

Pietrangeli called on the UK government to publish its future plans for agriculture in the UK through a parliamentary bill “at the earliest opportunity early next year,” adding that any delay would be detrimental to the industry.

He comments, “We need to have the best possible trading conditions with the EU. We need to get Brexit right. Trade with the EU is the most important market for UK dairy businesses and UK dairy should be recognised as a key player in Brexit negotiations.

“We do not want to see a situation where dairy businesses come under pressure because of restrictions on trading conditions.”

Pietrangeli highlighted the need for access to non-UK labour, citing the fact that 56% of farms had employed non-UK nationals in the last five years, 41% of processing business had employed non- UK nationals and 60-80% of third party logistics business had employed non-UK nationals.

Pietrangeli also said it was calling on the UK government to deliver a transitional period until 2022, no import/export tariffs, protection of a world leading regulatory framework on food standards, food safety and animal welfare and investment in new entrants and next generation farmers.

Dr David Walker, New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, told the Summit that New Zealand had been agreeing free trade deals since 1983 and also worked through the WTO.

He said New Zealand hoped to make progress on a deal with the EU and in the event of the UK leaving the EU, a deal could be arranged between New Zealand and the UK.

Dr Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, told the Summit that in the US “significant uncertainty” persisted over trade arrangements. He said that a proactive trade policy is essential for the US.

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