THE GOVERNMENT believes the enlargement of the European Union with ten new member states last year presents more opportunities than threats for UK farmers.

In its response to a report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, it said that enlargement “does not appear to have had a detrimental impact on agriculture in the UK or in the EU”.

“The Government hopes that UK agri-businesses will make the most of the opportunities that enlargement offers,” it said.

It pointed out that while the new member states account for 25.7% of total crop area and 35.8% of root crop area in the EU, their yield figures are low – more than 40% lower than in the EU15 for common wheat and rhye.

The Government also made the point that since the UK market is more focused on value-added products than the new member states, it is unlikely that the net imports from the latter will increase substantially in the short to medium term.