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Tuesday, 30 November 2021 10:55

Easing UK farmers' fears

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell used his first overseas trip in nearly two years to meet with UK farming leaders and allay their fears over the looming NZ/UK FTA. Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell used his first overseas trip in nearly two years to meet with UK farming leaders and allay their fears over the looming NZ/UK FTA.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell used his first overseas trip in nearly two years to meet UK farming leaders and allay their fears around the looming free trade agreement (FTA).

Hurrell told Rural News that he assured National Farmers Union leaders that New Zealand farming practices are similar to the UK's and that they have nothing to worry about.

Since the in-principle FTA deal was announced in a virtual summit by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern on October 21, UK farmers have been up in arms.

UK food lobby Red Tractor has claimed that NZ agriculture relies on growth hormones, dangerous herbicides and is weak on animal welfare because we dehorn animals without anaesthetic.

Hurrell says he briefed NFU leaders on NZ farming practices and Fonterra farmers' work on the environment  - like farm environment plans (FEP) - and animal welfare practices.

"Clearly, they are on the other side of the world and wanting clarification on our farming practices," says Hurrell.

“I told them that our farming practices are right up there with the rest of the world.”

Red Tractor claims were based on “outdated information”.

“If anything, our farming practices are more similar to theirs.”

The FTA is worth an estimated $1 billion over 15 years to the New Zealand economy and is good news for exporters.

Some agricultural products like onions and pears will have zero tariffs from day one. Tariffs on apples will be phased out within three years.

However, there will be a transition period for butter, cheese, beef and sheep meat producers, during which time they will enjoy significant tariff-free transitional quotas.

For Fonterra the UK isn’t a major market. Hurrell says the FTA is a good from a trade liberalisation point of view.

“From Fonterra’s perspective, the UK is a small market,” he says.

Meanwhile Hurrell also stopped over in Brussels and Netherlands where he discussed the NZ/EU free trade deal currently under negotiation.

He says he told European dairy leaders that NZ milk production was forecast to drop and “we are not going to flood the EU with milk”.

Faultless System

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell is back in office after completing home quarantine following an overseas trip.

The trip – Hurrell’s first in nearly two years – took him to the UK, Europe and Dubai.

Hurrell says the home quarantine went very well with the help of “ultra helpful staff” from the Ministry of Health.

“It’s a very good process; they were regularly calling me up to check if I was at home and coping,” he told Rural News.

"I can't fault the system."

Hurrell says the visit allowed him to reconnect personally with staff in key overseas markets and “not relying solely on communication from this wide of the world”.

In Dubai, he visited supermarkets and key customers to see new products developed by the team.

“Our staff are doing really well. Fonterra’s strength is having key people in markets.”

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