Securing free and frictionless trade with the EU and safeguarding British food standards will be crucial for the UK dairy sector to grow, prosper and deliver quality products the public expects, NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts has said.
Mr Roberts was speaking to delegates at the Semex Conference – the first big dairy conference of the year (13-14 January, Glasgow).
He said: “It’s absolutely clear that whether it’s milk, cheese, butter or yoghurt, the British public still love and value dairy with 98% of households regularly buying dairy products that are nutritious and produced safely to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.
“If Brexit is about putting the British brand around the world – then the UK dairy sector can deliver that.
“But it needs the right investment and trading environment. Top of the list must be ensuring a free and frictionless trade deal with the EU. Alongside this, a future trade policy that doesn’t allow imports of dairy products produced to standards that would be illegal to produce here.
“The alternative is the damaging threat of trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules meaning UK dairy farmers would face higher fees on exports, as much as 48% on butter and 57% of cheddar cheese. With the UK dairy sector exporting 3.2bn litres of products to the EU, it’s essential we secure a deal with the EU or face costs in the region of £500m.
“Where last year was dominated by uncertainty for the dairy sector particularly in the liquid milk market, which has seen big implications for dairy farmers, such as those affected by the Tomlinson’s closure, 2020 offers more optimism.
“We need government to back British farming like never before and put in place the right policies so dairy businesses can continue doing what they do best – providing great tasting, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”