FUW president Glyn Roberts warned the impact would hit home more and more over the coming weeks, with contracts lost, prices affected and businesses suffering. He also highlighted the confusion still surrounding regulation, particularly with labelling.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual Farmhouse Breakfast, Roberts said: “With just weeks to go before Brexit, our producers do not know what they will need to stamp their produce with for it to be legal here or elsewhere in just a few weeks’ time.
“Exporters packing and shipping products now do not know whether the health and export certificates that accompany those shipments will be legal when they arrive on the other side of the world in just a few weeks’ time.”
Weeks to train
Producers reliant on EU supply chains now face having to train and become familiar with rules pertaining to hundreds of different export destinations in mere weeks, as the UK becomes a third country.
“We do not know what tariff rates will be charged on imports from other countries after March – as the draft tariffs will not be published until the end of February and need to be approved by parliament – so deals with importers must be reached with no knowledge of the additional costs likely to be incurred at ports,” Roberts added.
“And as Scottish agriculture minister Fergus Ewing pointed out in a letter last week to [secretary of state] Michael Gove, setting tariffs too low risks opening the floodgates to cheap food produced to different standards and causing considerable harm to our farmers and food industry, while also giving away negotiating capital for future trade negotiations.”
Rewrite Article 50
In response to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the future of UK food and drink, FUW has called for Article 50 to be completely rewritten in an effort to take back control of Brexit negotiations.
Roberts also urged for contingency planning for a hard Brexit to be stepped up and for UK governments to work together to protect producers from a catastrophe on the same level witnessed during foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks.
Meanwhile, a no-deal Brexit could cost Scotland £14bn a year, with the food and drink sector worst affected, the Confederation of British Industry has claimed.