This is, of course, the point

Boris Johnson backs tariff-free trade with Australia
Agreement would be first deal since Brexit but farmers fear competition from cheap imports

Competition, yes.

Boris Johnson is prepared to offer Australia tariff-free access to British food markets despite warnings that it could put farmers out of business.

That’s how efficiency rises, those less so go bust.

41 thoughts on “This is, of course, the point”

  1. Slightly off topic, or maybe not – on the basis that I’m starting to think that none of this matters – is anyone else starting to think that there really is a plan to kill us all?

  2. The plan is being resisted by farming groups, which believe that it would set a dangerous precedent for future trade agreements

    The dangerous precedent of cheaper food.

    Australia pays tariffs of 20 per cent on all exports of beef to the UK

    This is from The Times, not The Sun

    “This proposed deal is a huge threat to Scottish agriculture,” John Swinney, the SNP’s deputy first minister, said. “It will devastate the hill farming communities I represent and no self-respecting UK government could sign this.”

    We should definitely do this then.

    Those who oppose it cite production standards in other countries as a big cause of the price differential — and raise concerns about the effect of mass farming on the climate. We should be eating less meat, they say, not encouraging greater consumption through lower prices.

    Fuck off.

  3. ‘We should be eating less meat’, they say. OK. We don’t need to worry if farms go bust then.

    Right..?

    Oh, and any chance Iceland will import those Australian frozen rabbit fillets on this deal? I really miss them.

  4. “Australia pays tariffs of 20 per cent on all exports of beef to the UK”

    All these years I’ve been labouring under the delusion that the UK consumer was the poor sod who was paying the 20% tariff.

    At last I realise that we’ve been getting a massive bung from Australia all this time ….

  5. The Meissen Bison

    RlJ – wasn’t it more a case of EU tarriffs being rather higher than the UK tariffs that they superseded? There was much hand-wringing about Anchor butter, that staple of the kitchen table, I seem to remember.

  6. They’re now talking about giving “incentives” for farmers to retire, but it ain’t the farmers so much as the farms that need to be retired if they are no longer competitive in the international markets we are now subject to post-BRExit – and that’s a good thing.

    I have no problem with some sort of transitional arrangements, since BRExit was a national decision we should accept the costs of that rather than them being solely bourn by the individual farmers.

    I’d rather do that and get rid of CAP style subsidies and farm payments in their entirety so that we can have cheaper food prices going forward.

    I have no doubt that most farmers are decent chaps, but fuck them, they’re the producers, it’s the consumers (i.e. us) that matter and I’d rather like cheaper beef thank you very much.

  7. John Galt,

    “I have no doubt that most farmers are decent chaps, but fuck them, they’re the producers, it’s the consumers (i.e. us) that matter and I’d rather like cheaper beef thank you very much.”

    Plenty of my mates had to go and find other jobs because international competition was cheaper. People who make PCs, textile workers. Not a lot of shoemaking in Northampton now. Why the fuck do people think farmers are a special case?

  8. My main objection to ‘cheap’ food from overseas is that it is produced to lower standards. That is not the case with Australia.

    At the higher end, I doubt it will make much difference. I’ve had top-end Australian meat and the one thing it wasn’t was cheap. There is a growing market for high-end local produce in the UK and this won’t be disturbed by container loads of frozen Aussie beef.

  9. Purely because BRExit was a national decision. I was there on the front lines and plenty of farmers came and shouted at me when I was manning the Vote Leave stall about how BRExit would ruin them, well, maybe they were right.

    I’m a bastard, but I’m not a heartless bastard and if a national decision is going to pauperise an industry (rather than just consumer taste or whatever), then a bit of transitional relief carved out of the expectation of future lowered costs seems justifiable.

  10. MC: Consumer Choice. As long as it’s labelled “100% genuine chlorine-soaked rat noses, product of USA” or “100% Australian Beef” or – as in MaccyD and BK – “100% British or Irish Beef and Potatoes”, the consumer can excersice their personal soverignty.

  11. The Meissen Bison

    Why […] do people think farmers are a special case?

    Farmers are perhaps a little special in that they have the stewardship of the countryside which is a public amenity to a certain extent. Having said that, they have also been sheltered from the consumer by a regime of subsidies and interventions matched only by the administrative burdens that these place upon them so that, for the most part, the farmers’ involvement in what happens downstream of the farm gate is zero.

  12. Farm workers will benefit from free trade – they will get cheaper food and the land they work on will move to higher value uses.
    I thought there wasn’t much money in farming livestock now anyway, and the greater income came from camp sites, holiday lodges, wind turbines, pony riding lessons and treks, grants to plant trees and ameliorate flood risk that sort of thing. More of that sort of thing then.

  13. Bogus Johnson cant have it both ways.

    Either it is free trade/markets (which I approve of wholeheartedly). Pay the farmers to look after countryside and call them “land stewards” if needs be.

    Or Bogus is planning his social credit tyranny to enforce his Marxist greenfreak ruin on us with windwank leccy and no cars/planes for plebs -to begin with.

    Unless the dozy cunt is a divided personality on top of all his other bullshit he cant send the country in 2 directions at same time.

    I think the short-term good news is just to keep the mugs quiet while long-term evil is being brewed.

  14. Massey Ferguson closed their Coventry tractor factory 20 years ago because a lot of British farmers were perfectly happy buying a cheaper foreign made product.

  15. We should be eating less meat, they say, not encouraging greater consumption through lower prices.

    Actually the ‘we’ here is you. They believe you, the proles, should be eating less/no meat. Climate politics, like obesity and all the others, are merely a front for middle class hatred of normal people who dare to enjoy the same standard of living as them.

  16. The Other Bloke in Italy

    Perhaps the solution might be a return to the old system of deficiency payments.

    If I remember correctly, an ideal price was worked out for various foods. If the farmer received that price or better in the market, then fine. If he got less, the difference was made up by the taxpayer, who still had cheaper food.

    When we joined the EEC, the taxpayer was hit twice, by higher food prices and by the taxes spent in the market to keep those prices high.

    Am I remembering this right?

  17. “I have no doubt that most farmers are decent chaps, but fuck them, they’re the producers, it’s the consumers (i.e. us) that matter and I’d rather like cheaper beef thank you very much.”

    Thats fine, and your prerogative. But if something happens to international trade (think Covid only worse) what happens then? The cheap beef you have now might seem a bit expensive when there’s none to be had for love nor money because the ships bringing can’t get here. Food is kind of important. A week without food on the supermarket shelves means anarchy in a Western nation. I would have thought that Covid should have taught us that security of supply has a value all of its own, one that has been largely forgotten in the last 30 ‘free trade is always wonderful’ years.

    If you want to have the right to buy all the cheap food you like and f*ck the UK farmers I want an undertaking that farmers get to f*ck the consumer if international trade goes up the swanny for some reason, and UK produced food is the only game in town. I want to be able to get to be Elon Musk rich because everyone needs to eat and I’ve got the only food available. Deal?

  18. The Other Bloke in Italy

    And the reason for the Deficiency Payments system was to help protect the population from the sort of emergency which Jim just described…

  19. Jim – broad FTA in agriculture should make supplies less fragile, not more. The Irish potato famine is the textbook example.

    Slightly different situation to being dependent on China for a dizzying range of manufactured goods while it aggressively steals all our IP.

    We’re not self sufficient in food now, and haven’t been since… I dunno, the 19th century maybe? Hence the victory gardens and whatnot in WW2.

    If we’ve access to tariff free food from ANZAC, N and S America, and Africa that puts us in a less fragile position – particularly if the increased demand helps Africans move away from subsistence farming and massively increase their productivity.

    Not sure why we should pay British farmers to pay Romanians to pick their crops. How sustainable is that if their guest labour supply is interrupted?

  20. I listened to that numpty Blackford wittering on this morning about how a non-tariff Australian deal would finish off Scottish hill farmers and crofters, along with many other rural types that depend on such activities. Which contrasts with the rural Scottish communities he opposes that owe their livelihood to catering for posh English shooting parties.

  21. These farmers have been featherbedded by a protectionist EU. That should change now. If they cannot compete with Aussie cattle stations then compete on quality or rarity of the breed of animals.

  22. A number of my immediate neighbours are farmers. They produce an outstanding product, the sort of meat you buy from stalls on Borough Market or comes served on a plate in one of the better restaurants. I doubt Australian produce is a direct threat to them – but tariff-free meat will be a godsend to the many families that shop at Lidl. I guess British farmers have to decide which market they’re servicing and act accordingly – just as long as it’s not the German model of processed garbage in a sausage skin.

  23. I grew up in the countryside so I can confirm that lots of farmers and their wives are decent souls. But by God they love moaning about how bad business is. Oh dear prices are low. Or, oh dear the harvest has been poor. Or, on the rare occasion that the harvest is good and prices are high, then oh dear it’s depleted the nutrients in the soil. There’s no bloody end to it.

    Anyway, here’s a deal. (i) Protection will be ramped down so that in a couple of years you’ll have to stand on your own feet. (ii) The proposed piffle about creatures with spines won’t apply to shooting mammals or birds. (iii) The Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property Relief against Inheritance Tax will be capped in future. (iv) Planning restrictions will be changed to make it much easier for you to build holiday cottages up your glen.

  24. Let’s take a historical perspective. Back in the day the farmer shared his land with commoners, rabbits, poppies, weeds and every pest you can imagine. By the square inch he only got value from less than half of it.
    Now that he’s kicked the dog walkers, most of the rabbits, all the poppies and weeds and has drenched the soil with all sorts of useful stuff (provided it doesn’t runoff) he’s got >90% of it. Pretty sweet deal.
    I take Jim’s point about security of supply, but hey Jim, isn’t your business a bit seasonal? How much fresh asparagus are you going to sell me in January?
    There is such a thing as storage. We stockpile oil and stuff, so we can stockpile food too. It’ll be called a strategic reserve.
    To compensate for the idiotically bureaucratic subsidy system (Barley Barons, Bueller?) allow Farmer Giles to build residential at a rate of (say) 50 sq ft per acre per year. So if you’ve got 100 acres you get a build start for something smart every year. Lots of people want to live in the countryside but they don’t all want to live in bloody barn conversions.

  25. @Rob, re “We should be eating less meat, they say, not encouraging greater consumption through lower prices.”

    Putting to one side the question of whether we should be eating less meat, let’s just assume the premise is true.

    Even then, their objection to free trade is irrational. If they want to use higher price to discourage consumption due to associated harms (externalities), then the correct way to approach it is to apply a Pigovian tax to the meat. Timmy’s Stern-style carbon tax or whatever. But you still need to procure the meat from somewhere, and the fact you’re whacking a Pigovian tax on it is completely separate from the economically rational way to source it. And if it’s cheaper to buy from Australia rather than make it here, what’s the benefit of forcing people to buy it here? (You might put forward an argument for the benefit. But it’s got to be a better reason than “more expensive is better” or “people should be forced to buy British because we are British”.)

  26. Philip: How much fresh asparagus are you going to sell me in January?

    How much do you need? Amazing thing, tunnel “greenhouse” farming.. 😛
    Unless you want cheap asparagus ( or most anything..).. Out of season, it can be acquired nowadays.
    Getting it to the UK is a bit tricky nowadays, but that means there’s a market right there…

  27. Dearieme, I think Richard Gordon covered moaning farmers in Doctor at Sea, almost 70 years ago: ‘Gale Force 1, chimney smoke rises straight up, farmers complain lack of rain causing drought conditions; gale force 2,smoke slightly deflected, farmers complain breezes causing wolves to lie down with lambs; gale force 3, smoke at 30 degrees, farmers complain strong breeze upsets cows and reduces milk yield’ etc.

  28. “Jim – broad FTA in agriculture should make supplies less fragile, not more. ”

    It does until it doesn’t. If you thought the hoo-hah over vaccines was bad, try the same when countries have got millions of people to feed and there’s a shortage of food for whatever reason. Then you’d probably see piracy on the high seas – a ship full of meat or grain could be the difference between a country having a violent coup or not. So don’t bank on your container ship making it safely to the UK from the other side of the world when every country in between is starving.

    The cost of farm subsidies is about £3bn, less if you took out the environmental payments. For that pittance by modern governmental spending standards you get a functioning food production industry which in extremis could supply food to the UK population at about 50% of current consumption. More over time. With governmental control, rationing etc thats probably enough to keep the riots at bay. To be honest I’d say its a cheap insurance policy for a low probability but very high impact event. Covid has shown us that low probability high impact events are not just theoretical, and Western societies are extremely vulnerable to them.

  29. The other bloke in Italy is right.
    John Swinney is lying through his teeth: the Hill farm subsidy was abolished as a result of joining the EU and large swathes of land that used to be farmed has been abandoned or relegated to grazing for the nearest surviving farmer. Rural schools have closed because there weren’t enough pupils (one I heard of closed when it got down to seven).
    @ Jim
    Theresa May, I think it was, promised a continuation of the same level of subsidies as UK farmers received under CAP, if you give any credit to government promises. [No?: I don’t blame you.] But the primary aim of the Oz trade deal is to replace expensive French produce with cheaper Australian (and, hopefully NZ) food which will be counter-seasonal with UK-produced food, to the benefit of the UK consumer with the EU producers being the ones to be worse off.

  30. “But the primary aim of the Oz trade deal is to replace expensive French produce with cheaper Australian (and, hopefully NZ) food which will be counter-seasonal with UK-produced food, to the benefit of the UK consumer with the EU producers being the ones to be worse off.”

    Thats pie in the sky thinking. Australian and NZ produce will compete all year round with Uk produce. We’re talking meat, grains and dairy produce mainly, all of which can be delivered at any time of year. Meat and dairy are all year round production systems anyway, while grain is produced seasonally it can be (and is) stored for all year round delivery as a matter of course.

  31. Jim
    Your low probability / high impact event.
    If we have sufficient storage the problem is solved unless it goes on for a long time.
    Jeez, even the Egyptians managed seven years.

  32. @ Jim
    Our local butcher, who sources his meat and eggs from local farmers and, for game, landowners doesn’t view New Zealand lamb as competing with UK lamb (we do still import a fraction of the amount of NZ lamb that we did in the ’60s.
    Grains are a world market anyhow with a structural surplus resulting from the abolition of collective farms in the Ukraine and Siberia (under communism one-third of the grain stored on Siberian collective farms was eaten by rats).

  33. Bloke in North Dorset

    Jim,

    In the scenario you describe not only is it acceptable for you to make out like eco subsidy farmer Elon Musk, but we’ll remove onerous regulations and allow you to make out like Bezos as well. That should bring forth supply very quickly.

  34. “If we have sufficient storage the problem is solved unless it goes on for a long time.
    Jeez, even the Egyptians managed seven years.”

    And how likely do you think that is to happen? Given the UK government was tasked with maintaining a reserve of PPE for the NHS and signally failed to do so? And also the fact that the Strategic Food Reserve was abolished at some point in the 90s (as part of the Cold War Peace Dividend naturally).

  35. “In the scenario you describe not only is it acceptable for you to make out like eco subsidy farmer Elon Musk, but we’ll remove onerous regulations and allow you to make out like Bezos as well. That should bring forth supply very quickly.”

    Would that it could be so. The reality is that if there was a national emergency based on lack of food, farms and food production would be nationalised overnight. Just as it was during WW2. OK the State didn’t expropriate the land, but it gave itself massive powers over who could farm land, what happened to the produce and what prices farmers were paid. There were things called War Agricultural Committees set up in every area which directed farmers how to increase production, and if they considered any farmer was not pulling his weight would remove him from his own land and install another farmer to manage it, often a neighbour. As with all State run power grabs there was a lot of localised power politics involved – it wasn’t unknown for a farmer with political connections to get himself onto the local War Ag committee and use his position to settle old scores by conniving to have his enemies thrown off their farms and the land given to his mates to farm.

    So we are screwed either way. Either we have to compete with the cheap foreign goods when times are easy, or we get nationalised if times are hard. Either way we are never allowed to win. Which I kind of understand because food security of supply is important. It would be nice if others realised it too though.

  36. Given it has to be flown over there, you might find Australian pasture fed fillet steak as a menu option at The Ritz, but not much elsewhere.

  37. I’ve supermarket shopped in Australia. It’s eye wateringly expensive. £5 pineapple in a country where they grow the fuckers? Every single produce item was at least twice the price of the UK. Admitted they have an unhealthy supermarket duopoly ( Coles and Woolworths) but their sky high labour prices and energy costs mean production costs are high too, let alone the transport add on of bringing fresh produce half way round the world. Our efficient farmers will probably compete very effectively.

  38. Theophrastus (2066)

    If you can’t compete on price, then compete on quality, service and add value with rare breed meat, going organic (even though it’s woo) etc, while also diversifying into campsites, lodges, petting zoos, mazes, pick-your-own…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *