EU enlargement an opportunity

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.