Farming ‘catastrophe’ in store without subsidies

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Fowler Welch boss Nick Hay warned UK farmers face catastrophe if subsidies are ditched
Fowler Welch boss Nick Hay warned UK farmers face catastrophe if subsidies are ditched

Related tags: United kingdom, European union

Domestic growers and farmers face a “catastrophe” if their subsidies are not maintained after the UK leaves the EU, the head of a logistics firm has claimed.

Food producers were well within their rights to seek subsidies from the money that the UK wouldn’t have to pay to Europe after Brexit, Fowler Welch md Nick Hay told Food Manufacture.

If subsidies to UK farmers were not maintained, food inflation would inevitably rise, which would “affect all of us”,​ Hay warned.

In August, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to honour EU funding of farmers and scientific research labs.

However, a month later, 36 MPs wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to redirect post-Brexit subsidies towards environmental and public services instead.

£3bn a year

UK farmers receive about £3bn a year via the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

Hay said it was important to retain the subsidies that protected the UK food and drink sector, but acknowledged the main problem concerning Brexit was the uncertainty it was creating.

“Uncertainty is the big issue. I understand and respect the fact that the government needs to build a negotiation, but if I was communicating with them, I would be asking for more information on what the plans are, and how swiftly they are going to follow them through,”​ he said.

“The driving issue is the exchange rate, which really feeds through to the supply chain as we’ve seen recently with Tesco and Unilever.”

‘Issue is the exchange rate’

Owned by holding company Dart Group, Fowler Welch operates nine UK distribution sites that provide a mixture of services for ambient and chilled manufacturers and producers.

Hay was pleased to report there had been no evidence of a changing attitude to non-UK EU workers among his staff at the company.

The main employee challenge at the moment, he claimed, was the current lack of availability of heavy goods vehicle drivers in the UK.

“The average age profile of Class-1 drivers in the UK is frightening. To address this, we’ve got 49 people going through an apprentice scheme next year,”​ he explained.

Read why the Fowler Welch boss believes cooperation in the food and drinks logistics will pay dividends in Food Manufacture’sBig Interview​. 

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce

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