A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been agreed in broad terms, with the legal text to be finalised over the coming months.
Speaking of the proposed deal, Minister Poots said: “I note the announcement on a Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand and I have written to George Eustice to express my concerns. I have long maintained that tariff and quota protection must be retained for sensitive agricultural products with any increase in market access being limited via tariff rate quotas. Any imports must also meet the high environmental, animal and plant health, animal welfare and food safety standards that apply to domestic production.
“I have been clear in my discussions with UK Ministers that tariff free access to the UK market for New Zealand farmers produce is a very serious threat to our farmers, even if that access is phased in over a number of years.
“New Zealand is a very significant and competitive beef, sheep and dairy exporter and has the potential to quickly increase exports further with a view to targeting the UK market.
“I fear that if the approach that the UK Government has taken with Australia and New Zealand is confirmed in the ratified FTA, then the agriculture sector in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will in the future come under severe pressure from imports with a resulting negative impact on farm incomes and viability. This would be a disaster for our producers and rural communities and cause serious issues for food security at times when global supply chains are disrupted.
“It is absolutely crucial that Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector is protected and the integrity of our food standards are maintained. Consumers rightly expect high environment and animal welfare standards and high quality food - that means that all imports must meet our standards. That is what they will get with locally produced and reared food.
“I am very disappointed that there has not been greater involvement of Devolved Authorities in the negotiations and this is something that needs to change in the future, given that this deal has the potential to have a significant impact on agriculture, which is a devolved matter. I hope the Government will urgently re-think the approach adopted to agricultural market access. "