THE UK Government has been accused of treating Scotland’s farmers as “expendable” as the trade deal with Australia comes into effect. 

Australia’s largest integrated cattle and beef producer, the Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) has increased the size of its herd by 13% in anticipation of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement going live on Wednesday.

The agreement will allow a significantly larger quantity of Australian beef to come into the UK market tariff-free.

Beginning at 35,000 tonnes per year it will rise in instalments to 110,000 tonnes over the next decade.

According to the UK Government, Australian beef imports currently sit around 2500 – 3000 tonnes a year.

The president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, has previously said that farmers have “very little to gain” from the UK’s trade deals with Australia and New Zealand.

SNP MSP Jim Fairlie – who has background in farming – said the deal means that Scottish farmers will have to compete with the “export powerhouses” of Australia and New Zealand just to maintain their share of the market.

“Farmers are absolutely right to be worried about the impact that the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement will have on them and I have raised the potential devastation this deal will have on our rural communities many times in Parliament,” he said.

“The departure from the EU is the starting point as it has resulted in a panic-stricken UK Government absolutely desperate to demonstrate that they can complete ambitious trade deals with governments across the globe. However, to get the deal with Australia over the line they have viewed the future of Scottish sheep and beef farmers as expendable.

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“The deal gradually introduces more and more meat into the UK market and over time tariffs will decrease meaning that Scottish farmers will be forced to compete for their market share against red meat export powerhouses from Australia and New Zealand. It is no wonder that politicians in those countries have celebrated this deal as if it was a lottery win.

“The UK Government has long espoused the view that food is a global commodity that is easily enough acquired and as such domestic production is not their priority. The Tories sold out Scottish fisherfolk both while in the EU and after leaving, and are now delivering a similar outcome for our beef and sheep farmers.

“It is not only politicians raising the alarm as all across the industry concerns have been raised. These voices include NFU Scotland and England; Scottish Tenant Farmers Association; the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland; the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers; the Scottish Crofting Federation; Scottish Craft Butchers; the Scottish Beef Association; the Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association; and the National Sheep Association of Scotland.

“Throughout this the UK Government has been uncooperative and unwilling to listen to all those industry representatives and the Scottish Government.

“To protect our industries such as farming, fishing, food and drink or any of the other major resources that make our country so rich we need the powers of independence as we see clearly how little the UK Government values these world-renowned food producers.”

The UK Government has previously said the concerns of the NFU are “misplaced for several reasons”.

It stated that increased beef imports from Australia are likely to displace imports from other countries rather than domestic producers and that UK consumers prefer British produce.