Speaking exclusively to Food Manufacture, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) Nick Allen said there was a lack of information about agricultural policy post-Brexit, which was causing concern for members.
“The biggest threat moving forward is what the agricultural policy will be post-Brexit, because if you look at the Health and Harmony document [currently out for consultation], there’s very little mention of food production in there.
“This could end up threatening supply and that’s probably going to mean more importing of meat and less home-produced produce unless the Government finds a way to link livestock to environmental policies.”
Allen also warned that uncertainty over trade agreements posed a risk for the sector. “After that [agricultural support] the biggest threat is what trade agreements are going to be like after Britain leaves the EU. People are going to be more realistic about trade. It’s likely to end up as reasonable access to the EU and unlikely to be a situation where we have tariffs.”
Given the high proportion of non-UK workers currently employed in the sector, Allen said the workforce situation could be very problematic for the domestic meat industry.
“We’re very dependent on non-UK labour,” he explained. “Most of our plants have got 65-70% of non-UK labour in them. The feeling we’re getting is that Government has got the message and come up with a system where we’ll have access to that labour, but there’s no doubt that we’ll have to go through more bureaucracy to get it. If there is no access to the non-UK labour market, major changes would have to be made, and I’m not sure we’re at that stage in terms of robotics working in plants.”
For more from Nick Allen on the current state of the meat industry, check out the May issue of Food Manufacture.