A free trade deal agreed in principle between the UK and New Zealand (NZ) has opened the door to the British market for beef, lamb and dairy products from the southern hemisphere.

On beef, there is a progressive build-up, starting with a 12,000t tariff-free quota, which increases to 38,820t by year 10. Out to year 15 there is a safeguard mechanism in place, where if NZ imports go over a threshold (60,000t in the final year), a 20% tariff will apply. Beyond that, trade in beef will be fully liberalised.

It is a similar arrangement for sheepmeat, with full liberalisation after 15 years.

However, NZ already has access to 114,000t of a tariff free quota to the UK, which it has struggled to fill in recent years.

In addition to this, from years one to four, there will be a further tariff-free quota of 35,000t and between years five and 15, an additional quota of 50,000t per year.

Butter and cheese

Butter imports from NZ will be fully liberalised after six years. Again, there will be a build-up, starting with a 7,000t quota in year one, going up in equal annual increases to reach 15,000t in year five, with tariff- and quota-free access after that.

For cheese, it is a similar process, with year one tariff-free quota set at 24,000t, increasing to 48,000t in year five.


Commenting, UFU president Victor Chestnutt said that local farmers have been completely undermined.

“As it stands, it is very hard to see the positives of this trade deal and other countries will be watching this development with a growing drive to secure a similar agreement,” he said.

Australia deal

The deal with NZ comes in addition to that recently announced with Australia, although both are yet to be finalised.

In the case of Australia, by year 10 it will be able to import 125,000t of lamb tariff-free, and by year 15, import 170,000t of beef.

Whether any of these volumes are ever achieved is debateable, but the UK has essentially thrown open its doors to the southern hemisphere.


Both deals have also drawn criticism from the chair of the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), Lord Deben.

Last month, it was revealed that commitments to temperature goals within the Paris climate agreement had been removed from the text of the Australia deal.

Briefing MLAs a Stormont last Thursday, the Conservative party peer said it was “unacceptable” that a country that does not meet standards around animal health, welfare or climate change remediation will be able to compete directly with UK farmers in the future.

“We are a country committed to net zero. That means we cannot allow carbon leakage. One of the ways to stop carbon leakage is to say that other people can export on fair terms, but it is not a fair term to do this,” said Lord Deben.

Later in the week when addressing a Soil Association event, the CCC chair branded the deal announced with New Zealand as “a disgrace”.

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