A radical call for New Zealand lamb imports to be slashed to a fraction of
current quotas has come from one of Scotland’s leading farming politicians.
In the week farmers railed against the abundance of southern hemisphere lamb on offer in supermarkets, Martin Kennedy, who farms near Aberfeldy and is vice-president of NFU Scotland, says the time has come to review the UK’s commitment to import up to 115,000 tonnes of New Zealand lamb a year.
This is 50% of the entire tariff-free quota deal in place with the EU. New Zealand has not fulfilled its full quota in recent years because other world markets have proved more lucrative.
However Mr Kennedy has estimated that, based on a 19kg carcase, the trade deal allows the equivalent of six million lambs a year to be exported to the UK.
Mr Kennedy will meet other UK farmers’ unions in London next week where he intends to highlight the issue.
“We take more than any other country,” he said.
“Germany takes 15% of the 230,000 tonne quota, France 9% and the
Netherlands 11%. It’s hammering our markets and making us dependant on exporting our lambs outwith Scotland.
“Brexit could provide the opportunity to make serious inroads into New
Zealand lamb’s dominance of Scottish chill cabinets.”
Mr Kennedy said the UK was losing added value from processing the lamb because most sheepmeat is exported as whole carcases.
By contrast New Zealand lamb is all imported as processed cuts
“Sending us six million lambs is nuts. We have to look after ourselves for a change. We’ve been used as a bargaining chip for too long,” he said.
“We’re supposed to be watching our carbon footprint and being as green as we can. Transporting food over such a distance is plain crazy.
“I will be questioning why we have to take 50% of the tariff-free quota of New Zealand lamb coming into the EU.”
He said there were ‘tremendous lambs’ going through Scottish markets at this time of year.
“They may be called hoggets but in our eyes they’re still lambs. It’s not an issue for consumers. It’s time to change the name,” he said.
“New Zealand lamb is only required to fill the gap in the market between May and July.
“Once August comes we have plenty of lambs to meet the market, but New Zealand and Australia are sending them all year round.”
He pointed out that getting trade deals right would have a far greater bearing on the future profitability of UK farming than any change in subsidy
“If we get the deals right, it will make a bigger difference,” he said.
“We have the opportunity to change the deal after Brexit. We don’t want New Zealand lamb on our shelves when we have plenty available here.”