With the Brexit deadline on the horizon at the time of writing, we look at some of the areas which could affect the farming community.
Will there be an equitable market for the sale of beef and lamb after we leave the EU?
• The date of departure is before many sheep farmers will have completed lambing and certainly before much of the new season lamb is ready for market.
• Although the majority of Scotch Beef is sold within the UK, there are exports currently to the EU and also imports from Eire to the UK. We do not know currently how these trade deals will look after the 29th March. Bearing in mind that the production of beef takes over 12 months, the uncertainty is not welcomed, and the livestock farmers cannot simply change direction on a whim.
Will the import of pesticides and fertiliser be compromised by Brexit?
• We do not know yet what Tariffs will be applied and how these will increase the cost of production.
• These items are required in order to maintain the quality of crop and soil condition in order for the farmer to produce the best produce; whether that is the barley for distilling and brewing, the vegetables for our Sunday roast or our salad crops.
How will they guarantee the supply of short-term labour?
• Many of the farmers the length and breadth of the country rely on temporary labour at their busy times, often when the crop is ready for harvesting.
• These workers can be here for just a few weeks or can be travelling where the work is, in different parts of the UK, starting in the south of England and working north or north and then working south, depending on which commodity they are involved in harvesting.
How will the supplies of imported food to the shops be affected?
• Without the import/ export tariff’s being agreed, the cost of produce imported to the UK from Europe could increase or supply could be constrained.
• Does this mean that fresh fruit and vegetables that are not grown in the UK, will become a luxury item? Bananas and Citrus fruits are such an example.
• Much of the labour in these sectors both on the UK mainland & in Northern Ireland are non-UK workers and need clarity and certainty about their future employment contracts in the UK.
• Unlike the short-term labour mentioned above, these are permanent staff and highly skilled at their roles. We do not have homegrown labour that is willing and able to carry out these jobs.
Without delving further into potato growing, Christmas trees & forestry, or fish farming amongst others, we can see that there are many questions that have not yet been addressed.
Without solutions to these concerns, the Agricultural Industry is at an impasse.
The willingness to change as required is there, but what that change looks like, and how it will affect the profitability of many businesses (and the price of food to the consumer) is still out for question.
We look forward to clarity on these and other farming-related issues.