Trading opportunities with the EU are becoming increasingly limited for the UK arable industry because of Brexit uncertainty and businesses are already feeling the impact, the NFU has warned today.
In a typical year, UK grain exports to the EU are worth £514million. But with no clarity around the future EU-UK trading relationship and what tariffs will be imposed, arable businesses and the wider supply chain are struggling to plan ahead meaning they are being more exposed to risk from a volatile grain market.
NFU combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw stressed the need for a deal to be agreed to mitigate the impact on farmers, allow trading contracts to be put in place with European buyers and enable the free flow of food products between the UK and EU to continue.
He said: “The planned Brexit day is less than 30 days away. It is absolutely appalling and completely irresponsible to have this level of uncertainty at such a late stage, and it is impacting farm businesses as we speak.
“It is no longer a case of business as usual – uncertainty is preventing normal trading practices from taking place today. We rely on simultaneous import and export trade to keep the UK market balanced, and with the vast majority of British grain exports going into the EU market it is essential that this flow of trade is maintained and protected.
“At the NFU’s annual conference last week the Secretary of State outlined plans to protect various sectors of British agriculture from imports produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK, but did not say whether UK arable farmers would be offered any protection.
“Our nation’s cereal production underpins all other farming sectors – from producing biofuels to helping to feed livestock – and its strategic importance must not be overlooked. It would only take the Government putting minimal tariffs on cereals coming into the UK to help maintain balance on our market and offer some protection to UK growers from imports of lower standards.
“And let’s be clear, tariffs on grain have very little impact on food prices. If British grain exports are going to face EU tariffs, it’s not unreasonable for our government to reciprocate and put in place levels of protection for our own growers.”