The continued political deadlock around the UK leaving the EU was expected to bleed into the new year. The red meat industry, which brings £200m a year in export income for Wales, was one of the sectors with most to lose.
The HCC warned that World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs on meat would range from 40-80%, much higher than the 5-10% expected for most other exported goods.
Independent studies also found the sheep sector, which is heavily dependent on exports of its premium-quality produce, as particularly vulnerable to disruption in European trade.
The future’s bright
While the future of the Welsh meat industry was “fundamentally bright”, according to HCC chair Kevin Roberts, a great degree of uncertainty still surrounded prices and the ability to access export markets.
“We have top-quality produce, brands which are recognised throughout the world, extremely dedicated producers and an industry which pulls in the same direction in promoting high standards in meat quality, welfare and sustainability,” Roberts explained.
“However, as 2019 dawns we find ourselves standing on a cliff edge. Independent reports project a fall of 30% or more in farm-gate prices if there’s a chaotic Brexit, and farmers need certainty in order to invest and continue to develop their businesses.”
Roberts confirmed that the HCC was working with the UK government to put together contingency plans to the best of its ability, but warned that the uncertainty and the range of potential outcomes was so great with just three months until the deadline.
“The complexity involved is immense,” he added. “Our industry’s New Year wish is simple; to be able to trade freely and fairly and have some certainty for the future.”
Meanwhile, food and drink manufacturers will be increasingly at risk of insolvency for the first six months of 2019, one of the UK’s biggest credit insurers has warned.