‘Tariff barriers could cause UK food shortage’ – NFU

As the uncertainty around Brexit continues and the imposition of potential tariffs of €1.7 billion on Irish agri-food exports looms, AgriLand found out how the UK’s farmers are coping with the situation.

The analysis follows comments made by the UK’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, Michael Gove, at a recent National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference where he pointed out that the UK would not cut off tariff barriers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

As such, Irish farmers would be subject to the same tariffs as set by the UK on other countries it engages with on trade deals.

But what does it mean for British farmers and producers?

‘Cheaper Produce’

Speaking to AgriLand, Tori Morgan of the NFU said that while there is no shortage of speculation on a no-deal Brexit, farmers in the UK found themselves in the midst of uncertainty, as they awaited confirmation on the Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) that will be applied.

It’s important with the TRQs that there is a balance struck between the producer and the retailer; also there are genuine concerns about the influx of cheaper products into the UK.

Morgan added: “We do not know what the impact will be on the domestic market, but if TRQs are allowed, there is every chance that our market will be flooded with cheaper produce.”

The NFU representative went on to say that the UK is currently importing 40% of its food produce.

“From that 40%, 70% is coming from the EU; while the remainder is from other countries. So, if there are barriers put in place there could very well be food shortages, yes.”

Morgan stressed that it is this very scenario that must be avoided.

“TRQs would then be used to bring a balanced approach to our markets. What also needs to be considered is the economy and all the other factors that are at play within that.”

Also Read: Brexit jargon: What is a Tariff Rate Quota and how does it work?

“Farmers in the UK are very concerned. It’s lambing and calving season and many sheep farmers, in particular, are concerned about where the markets will be for those lambs,” added Morgan.

“All of this uncertainty is having a negative knock-on effect on confidence within the business industry.”

‘Fallen Axe’

Last week, British meat producers raised concerns about the Brexit impact and urged the UK government to ease the uncertainty surrounding the matter.

According to the representative group the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA), the “axe has already fallen for some British meat exporters”.

Companies were reporting that overseas customers were cancelling orders and buying their product from other countries because of the lack of clarity around Brexit.