Reducing food tariffs will not solve the cost of living and would be as “misleading” as advising consumers, the president of the farmers’ union said after reports that ministers were considering reducing import taxes.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which represents the interests of 55,000 food producers in England and Wales, said lowering the tariff wall for imported food “does not even begin to address the problem”.
The cabinet is debating whether to reduce tariffs on foods such as hard oranges and rice produced in the UK as a way to reduce prices.
Ministers, including Boris Johnson, are pushing for lower import duties, the Sun reported Monday, as a way to help families manage rocketing inflation.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 5.9% in mid-March, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
However, other members of the cabinet, including International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, are expected to oppose such a plan, believing that the UK’s decision to unilaterally reduce tariffs during negotiations on a post-Brexit trade agreement would hurt it.
“We’ve got the third most affordable food in the world here, and with the retail price war going on we’ve probably got the most affordable food,” Batters told reporters.
The conflict in Ukraine – a major producer of wheat and sunflower oil – is fueling fears of a global food shortage.
Butters says: “It’s important to make sure that everyone produces what they’re good at so that we don’t run out of supplies, because that would only drive inflation.”
“Just lowering the tariff wall does not start tackling the problem. This is a very complex problem that requires long-term strategies to deal with in the short, medium and long term.
“Just thinking ‘low on the tariff wall’ is confusing to consumers and it solves the problem.”
The NFU outlined plans to increase UK food exports by 30% by 2030, to help farmers find ways to sell their produce in more overseas markets, with Batters talking about bringing the total value to more than bn 30bn.
The NFU urges the government to work in partnership with food producers to target new export markets as ministers travel the world to discuss free trade agreements, highlighting how the industry works with ministers in other countries, such as Australia, where farmers are involved in trade. . Mission
Batters has previously criticized the government’s “adversarial” approach to dealing with farmers and accused ministers of using food producers as “pawns” with major food-producing countries Australia and New Zealand in post-Brexit trade agreements.
Farmers have expressed concern that the free trade agreement could flood cheaply imported goods into the UK market, leaving them unable to compete.