After the UK leaves the EU, UK farmers’ main competitors would remain those in Ireland, The Netherlands, Denmark and France, Raymond informed delegates at the event, which was also sponsored by analytical testing company ALS Life Sciences UK, packaging specialist Charpak and RSA Insurance Group.
He said uncertainty remained about the £3bn of direct financial support for British farmers after 2020 when the government’s pledge of continued support for the sector ended.
‘Less support for agriculture’
John Giles, a divisional director with agricultural market specialist Promar International, added: “The direction of travel is set. There will be less support for agriculture, but if we go for the ‘cold bath treatment’ they had in New Zealand, it caused an awful lot of pain to the farming sector, because they got rid of subsidies almost overnight.”
However, Raymond remarked: “I was delighted to hear the prime minister talk about some form of transitional arrangements post 2019/20 when we exit the EU.”
The NFU hoped that more clarity on the direction of future support for farmers could be expected when two green papers – one on food and farming and the other on the environment – were published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs over the next month or so.
‘How is support to be delivered’`
“The debate is going to be what level of support and then how is that support to be delivered,” said Raymond.
“And then you come up against the devolved countries [Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland], because the treasury will decide the level of support. We could end up with different agricultural policies across the devolved countries of the UK,” said Raymond.
“And our message is quite clear. We want that framework to be equal; we don’t want any of our members disadvantaged across the UK.”
He called for continued financial backing from government to support productivity improvements in UK agriculture, together with support for innovation and investment. “I believe any further support will need to work around those three,” he added.