Tuesday 2 March 2021
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Boris Johnson promises British farmers new export markets in Asia

The UK government has announced a bounce-back plan for the agricultural, food and beverage industries, intended for post-corona recovery and for post-Brexit expansion.

This 'rebound' plan should enable the British agro-industry to grow their trading activities abroad, and will mainly focus on Asian markets such as Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

The announcement of the recovery and enlargement plan coincides with the faltering of the UK's FTA negotiations with both the United States and the European Union. The United States itself is a major food producer and sees Britain as a new export territory, and is not at all eager for imports of British agriculture, dairy, agri and meat products. 

The British negotiations with the EU are mainly determined that the European Union will adhere to the rules and criteria that also apply in the rest of Europe, and does not want to make any (legal and financial) exceptions for the British. There is also considerable disagreement about the (EU) fishing rights in (the British part of) the North Sea. This situation threatens to seriously squeeze the British agricultural sector within a few months and lose export regions. 

If there is no trade treaty between London and Brussels this year, there will be a British departure from the EU without any settlement at all, looming large trade chaos. Failure to conclude a trade agreement between the EU and the UK would have serious implications for the agri-food sector for both parties, according to a joint statement released by key agri-food stakeholders in the EU in early June.

Prime Minister Johnson's announcement that he will also seek out markets in Asian countries for agriculture and livestock is seen as a response to last week's plea for dozens of British agricultural organizations to urgently modernize and expand the UK agro-industry.

The corona crisis, according to some 30 organizations, has shown systemic errors caused by a long-term lack of support for domestic food producers. The group advocates more export, import substitution, automation and up-skilling. According to them, this requires substantial investments in the own agricultural, processing and food service sectors in the short term. 

In a statement published online, the UK government states that while the industry has "done well to adapt", exports have been hit hard and the government "is committed to supporting these key industries to get back into international markets and grow market share once again. ” The announcement stems from growing concerns about the direction of UK agri-food trade, which amounted to € 58 billion in 2019, after Brexit, and the as yet unclear future relationship between the EU and the UK.

The agriculture, food and beverage sector is the largest manufacturing industry in the UK and plays a critical role in the country's food supply chain, contributing £ 121 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and supporting around four million jobs. In 2019, UK food, feed and beverage exports amounted to £ 23.7 billion, up 4.9% from 2018.

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