The British Government has signalled that the UK and the rest of the European Union was seriously considering further opening up their food markets to suppliers from developing countries during the ongoing World Trade Organisation Doha round.

Speaking at a conference held by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the trade minister Baroness Symons said that trade liberalisation in its agricultural talks should create opportunities for developing countries.
Baroness Symons said that a 50% reduction in trade barriers would increase income in developing countries by US$150bn a year – three times the total amount of aid that is given to such nations.

Turning to the implication for farming and food production in the UK, Baroness Symons admitted: “We have a great deal to put right in our own backyard. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is a major task for the Doha round of the WTO. Trade liberalisation is essential.”

Other speakers at the conference, which addressed the issue of sustainable development in the Doha trade round, admitted there were implications for British food producers. “Sugar beet is one area that is likely to affect British farmers,” said one environmental delegate. “If tariffs are lifted then sugar beet from developing nations will come into the UK. In one sense that is just pure economics. But the question is what would replace the agricultural land that used to grow sugar beet? Are we looking at the consolidation of huge farms with all the problems that means for the environment and consumer choice?”

By Mark Rowe, correspondent in Westminster