In an open letter – cosigned, among others, by the British Meat Processors Association, Farmers’ Union of Wales, Food and Drink Federation Cymru and the National Beef association – producers highlighted key issues that need to be addressed immediately to avoid detrimental impacts to the industry.
The letter read: “What happens in the next six weeks is critical to the survival of many food, drink and farming businesses and the supply chains and jobs they support. As an industry in Wales, we are committed to working with you to support this process.
Avoid a catastrophic outcome
“However, whilst new market opportunities may emerge in the future, the impact of ending the Withdrawal Period without a comprehensive UK-EU trade deal would be catastrophic and we cannot emphasise strongly enough the need to avoid this outcome.”
The group highlighted six key actions to protect Welsh exports to the EU, a market worth an estimated £320m to Wales.
These actions included a trade deal allowing tariff free access to the EU market, as well as a six-month grace period to allow businesses to adjust to the impacts of the new rules set to be in place for exports.
Reducing the impact of Brexit
The group also called for: efforts to reduce the impact of non-tariff barriers, including a reduction in the frequency of physical checks at borders; adding the food and drink sector to the Shortage Occupation list; and appropriate physical infrastructure and staffing at UK ports must be in place at the end of any transition or grace period to ensure the smooth flow of products.
Finally, cosigners called for financial assistance packages to be made for food and drink producers ahead of any changes to trading arrangements to make up for any additional cost and significant losses anticipated in a majority of post withdrawal period scenarios.
“Given what is at stake for vast numbers of Welsh livelihoods and businesses, and the few weeks left before the end of the Withdrawal Period, we implore you to address these matters and ensure that an agreement is reached with the EU over trading arrangements that reduce impacts for all concerned,” the letter concluded.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Government from Scottish trade bodies and the House of Lords to address food industry fears about organic food and exports.