Brexit uncertainty will hit UK organic farmers

John Pawsey_55949

UK organic farmers face the prospect of a trade embargo being placed on their products destined for the EU if we leave without a deal, the NFU has warned.

The NFU has maintained that it is vital a deal is agreed to ensure an orderly Brexit to avoid immediate serious problems for British farmers and growers and food production.

Chairman of the NFU organic forum, John Pawsey, says a no-deal Brexit would mean producers here needing the EU to formally recognise UK organic production standards and accept these as equivalent to EU standards. He warns that without recognition for UK organic standards, organic products destined for the EU market would have to be sold as conventional and would therefore lose the premiums they need in order to cover the higher costs of production.

The NFU is writing to Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove to highlight this as another example of where leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for UK agriculture.

Mr Pawsey said: “There is currently no mechanism in place to facilitate the equivalent process within the European Commission and estimated time scales of achieving this recognition could be as long as nine months.

“It appears to have been left to certification bodies to work out how this can be achieved. Exports are an important part of the supply chain for British organic farmers and growers and we fear the consequences of excess product being trapped in the UK and the impacts that would have.

“The UK Government has already taken a step towards trying to ensure continuity of trade for organic products through the introduction of a Statutory Instrument which stipulates the UK will continue to recognise EU control bodies for a designated time period of 21 months. I would like to see this transition period reciprocated for UK organic products entering the EU market in a no-deal scenario.

“We continue to urge government and MPs not to leave the EU on these terms. If no deal is reached, the NFU would like to see the process of gaining recognition expedited as quickly as possible.”


Notes to editor:

  1. Around 9% of organic sales are exported.  In 2016, this equated to approximately £188 million. Globally, organic dairy is one of the largest sectors within organic food and drink.  UK organic dairy exports are estimated to account for 20% of total sales versus 9% for total organic food and drink.
  2. As an example, should the 50 million litres of organic milk - currently exported in the form of cheese and added value dairy to the US and EU - have to be absorbed back into the UK market, organic dairy returns could be affected to the tune of £5 million which would reduce every organic producer's returns by £15,000.

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