The trade deal between the UK and the Australian governments certainly marks a moment of post-Brexit history. The UK is now free to enter into trade deals with non-EU countries and has made no secret of the fact that it intends fully to explore global opportunities for UK businesses. Farmers have, however, expressed concerns that the market for UK producers will be adversely affected by the introduction of cheap foreign imports, which will out-compete them. Concerns centre around welfare standards and traceability, but also simply cost.
In any trade deal, a balance will need to be struck between the competing interests of each country and the sometimes-conflicting interests of the sectors within it. Farming leaders have for a long time been concerned that farming and fishing may not be afforded sufficient priority and that British farmers may lose out when tariffs on imports are lowered.
However, the quid pro quo of lower tariffs on imported products will be that export markets should open up too, to a greater degree for British farmers. Headlines may more easily be filled by stories of the struggle farmers might face to compete with imported produce, rather than to tell the more positive story of the opportunities a trade deal can bring.
The journey for a UK farmer to successfully export their produce abroad, to a non-EU market might seem daunting. However, there is plenty of support and advice available. Further, many of the stages of that journey will be familiar to any business with a domestic market, in terms of identifying your target market, generating a product that will appeal to them at the right price and reaching the market cost-effectively.
The process of navigating the detail of what must be done to comply with the applicable regulations in the world of a new trading landscape, even within the EU, will of course be less familiar. However, with the right advice, success can be achieved.
The first stage for many producers may involve no change at all; simply assessing what you have in your business and making sure that it is all run today as well as it can be. This might mean reviewing your current business structure, ensuring that agreements are in good shape and reviewing the strengths and weaknesses in your business to reduce risk and promote efficiently. The sooner that process is undertaken, the greater the chance of achieving your full potential in a new landscape.
These are changing but exciting times for UK farmers and producers. We see this as a land of opportunity, not threat.