Farmers ‘will be protected’ under new trade deals, says Truss
- Credit: Archant
A malt firm boss stressed the need for post-Brexit trade deals in Europe and around the world as trade secretary Liz Truss visited the business to underline her commitment to the UK food and farming industry.
Ms Truss – a strong supporter of the Brexit project – wants to secure zero tariff arrangements with some major countries outside of Europe.
East Anglian farmers have expressed fears for their businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit – but they and firms like Stowmarket-based Muntons will be among those to benefit from opening up to more markets around the world, the trade secretary said.
The Department for International Trade estimates that East Anglia alone would benefit to the tune of up to £345m from a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, making it one of the biggest beneficiaries of a US trade deal.
MORE – Farmers distraught as harvest yields plummetBut Muntons – whose sales to the European Union represent 15% to 20% of its total – is still worried about the effects of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. Beyond the EU, its US trade nets a further 12% and Japan around 8 to 10% – making them its biggest export destinations beyond the European bloc.
In all, the £100m turnover firm – which employs 320 people globally and 270 to 280 at its Suffolk factory – exports to 76 countries, with overseas trade a crucial part of the business mix.
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It has invested heavily in its Stowmarket site over recent years, with £30m being poured into the business over the last five years, and further hefty investments – £25m over the next three years – planned.
Muntons boss Mark Tyldesley said removing a punitive US tax on malt whisky imports would be among the measures that would help his business, as would a good deal with Japan – a big importer of British malt. He also wants to see an agreement with the EU, and measures to ensure smooth passage for export freight heading to the EU.
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“If we had the no deal tariffs it would dramatically affect our business,” he warned.
A “decent” deal with Europe is “critical” he said, as default world trade rules would add 21% to the price of Muntons products sold into the EU, effectively wiping out that trade.
But despite Brexit and covid turmoil, the 99-year-old company – which expects to see around a 10% hit to its sales from the coronavirus crisis – remains confident about the future.
“We are well set for the future,” he said.
While harvest had been “very difficult” this year, the company and the region’s farmers who grow the barley which is made into malt at the factory took a long-term view, he suggested.
Liz Truss was given a tour of the site and shown its giant newly-refurbished germination boxes where barley seed is sprouted, and Evaporator 3, which enables the firm to meet growing demand for its malt extract.
She wanted to see more British products heading overseas, she said. She added: “I want to get a good deal for farmers and I’m going to be talking to them about how we can achieve that.”
She sees Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as key to this, and said farmers across East Anglia would benefit from future FTAs with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
As well as Muntons, the international trade secretary visited farms in the region to spread her positive message.
From Stowmarket, she headed to Traditional Norfolk Poultry in Shropham as it prepares for the Christmas market, and Laurel Farm in King’s Lynn where farmers hope to benefit from the lifting of a ban on British beef in the US in place since 1996.
“The trade deals we are negotiating will open up some terrific new export opportunities for farmers in East Anglia and across Britain – boosting rural communities and creating jobs,” she said.
“Today I have seen an enormous range of range of produce, both arable and pastoral, all of which will be traded across the world under improved terms through our new agreements.
“Farmers and their high standards will be protected as part of any trade agreement we negotiate. I will not accept any deal that undermines or undercuts British farmers and makes them less competitive.”
The US is the East of England’s largest export market, accounting for 14% of the East of England’s goods exports, according to the DIT. 3,774 businesses in the East of England collectively export £7,316 worth of goods to the US every minute. It exports £58.1m worth of food and drink products to the US.