Reducing food tariffs won’t solve UK’s cost of living crisis, farmers’ union warns | Food industry

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Lowering food tariffs will not solve the cost of living crisis and it would be ‘misleading’ to suggest this to consumers, the Farmers’ Union chairman has said after reports that ministers are planning to drastically cut taxes on food ‘import.

Minette Batters, chair of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which represents the interests of 55,000 food producers in England and Wales, said the lowering of the tariff wall for imported food “isn’t even beginning to solve the problem” of soaring grocery prices.

The cabinet is debating whether to lower tariffs on foods such as oranges and rice, which are difficult to produce in the UK, in order to bring prices down.

Ministers including Boris Johnson are pushing to cut import tariffs, The Sun reported on Monday, to help families manage soaring inflation.

Minette Batters on her farm near Salisbury, Wiltshire. Photo: Adrian Sherratt/The Observer

Food and non-alcoholic drink prices were up 5.9% on the year to mid-March, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, other cabinet members, including International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, are said to oppose such plans, saying the UK’s move to unilaterally cut tariffs would put it at a disadvantage when negotiating a deal. post-Brexit trade deals.

“We have the third most affordable food here in the world and with the retail price war going on, we probably have the most affordable,” Batters told reporters, adding that she doesn’t believe the price drop food would be sustainable.

The conflict in Ukraine – a major producer of wheat and sunflower oil – is fueling fears of global food shortages.

Batters said: “It’s about making sure everyone keeps producing what they’re good at so that we don’t cause shortages of availability because that would just increase inflation.

“Just lowering the tariff wall isn’t even enough to solve the problem. It is a very complex problem that requires the establishment of a long-term strategy to deal with the short, medium and long term.

“It’s misleading for consumers to just think ‘lower the price wall’ and that fixes the problem.”

Batters was speaking as the NFU set out plans to increase UK agrifood exports by 30% by 2030, to bring the total value to over £30billion, by finding ways for farmers to sell their products in more foreign markets.

NFU calls on government to work ‘in partnership’ with food producers to target new export markets as ministers travel the world to negotiate free trade deals, highlighting how industry is working with ministers other countries like Australia, where farmers are included in the trade. assignments.

Batters has previously criticized the government’s ‘adversarial’ approach when dealing with farmers and accused ministers of using food producers as a ‘pawn’ in post-Brexit trade deals with major food-producing countries. foodstuffs, Australia and New Zealand.

Farmers have raised concerns that free trade deals could lead to more cheaply produced imports flooding the UK market, leaving them unable to compete.

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