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FTAs with UK and EU were unlikely to cause major shift in exports, said New Zealand’s lamb trade body 

The recently signed free trade agreement with the UK is unlikely to “have significant impact” on exports of meat from New Zealand, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand, an industry body representing around 9,000 Kiwi farmers.

Chairman Andrew Morrison said “current demand in other key markets” meant there would be little room to expand sales in the UK or in the EU, with which New Zealand’s government agreed a free trade deal this year, hot on the heels of putting pen to paper with the UK.

“New Zealand has very good market access throughout north Asia, south east Asia, and North America, all of which are closer to New Zealand,” Morrison told The Grocer this week.

Despite rivalling neighbour Australia as the world’s biggest lamb-exporting nation, New Zealand has struggled to fulfil its export quota with the EU. Instead it has prioritised demand around the Pacific region, where China, despite producing 10 times as much lamb meat as New Zealand, is also the world’s biggest lamb importer.

“Market access under the UK FTA simply mirrors New Zealand’s preferential market access in these markets,” Morrison said. New Zealand has not only several bilateral FTAs with Asian countries but is part of two huge regional trade deals, the 15-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK hopes also to join.

Representatives of Britain’s meat industry had earlier repeatedly criticised the government over the FTAs with New Zealand and Australia, saying the deals would allow both nations to export to the UK meat produced more cheaply and to different standards than in the UK, thereby giving their farmers a competitive advantage.

Are farmers’ concerns over NZ trade deal warranted?

In a statement last month, National Sheep Association CEO Phil Stocker said the two FTAs could “give the theoretic possibility of these countries supplying the UK’s total sheepmeat consumption”. He slammed what he said was “a betrayal to the farming industry but especially to sheep farmers across Britain”.

Last year levy board AHDB said it would take a deterioration in Australia and New Zealand’s wider relationships with China, both countries’ biggest overall trading partner, before there would be any significant uptick in New Zealand meat exports to the UK.

More recently, however, AHDB said it would take not only China imposing a ban on Kiwi meat, but falling demand in the EU and US as well, for the worst-case outcome of a 69% rise in New Zealand lamb exports to the UK to be realised.

New Zealand’s reluctance to meet demand in the EU, could, it was argued earlier in the year, present an opportunity in turn for British lamb.

Mike Parr, MD of PML said his business had been handling an increasing volume of British lamb exports to the Middle East and Persian Gulf – regions where, he added, local tastes appear to mean a preference for British lamb over “bonier and leaner” New Zealand-sourced meat.