‘Be patient on Brexit talks’, farmers told – even if it goes against the grain

PUBLISHED: 16:29 17 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 17 March 2019

Guy Smith, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU)  Picture: NFU

Guy Smith, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) Picture: NFU


Farmers must try to avoid a ‘just get on with it’ attitude that could risk them coming off worse in the Brexit stakes, a farmers’ leader has warned.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) deputy president Guy Smith, who farms at St Osyth, Clacton-on-Sea  Picture: NFUNational Farmers' Union (NFU) deputy president Guy Smith, who farms at St Osyth, Clacton-on-Sea Picture: NFU

Playing the waiting game goes against the grain for farmers, admitted National Farmers’ Union deputy president and Essex farmer Guy Smith.

“Farmers particularly like to start a job and get it done – they don’t like to break halfway through and go back to it,” he said.

MORE – Branching out will be ‘key’ as East Anglian farmers face up to realities of Brexit, says expert

However, when it comes to Brexit negotiations, patience may be virtue, he said.

“This is not something to be rushed – it’s so important,” he said. Decisions being made over the coming days and weeks were going to have implications for a long time, he pointed out.

“We just need to be patient, and get the best deal for agriculture rather than doing that farming thing or just making do,” he said. “This is worth sticking at, and that’s our plan.”

He added: “Whatever you say will pre-suppose you know what’s going to happen – it really is very fluid and very volatile.”

However, looking back over tumultuous periods for agriculture, there were always winners and losers.

“Our job at the NFU is to make sure there are as many winners as possible,” he said.

And this year, like any other, weather will dictate how well or badly farmers perform overall.

“Other factors like harvests in other parts of the world are still going to be enormously influential,” he said. “There are other variables, like the weather and like the markets, which will probably be more influential (than Brexit),”

It was therefore important for farmers to hold their nerve and manage risk.

“There’s no reason to be fatalistic about this. I’m convinced with strong, political representation, we can get a decent deal here,” he said. “It’s really important to agriculture that we don’t get fatalistic because that can be a self-prophesying statement.”

He admitted farmers do become risk-averse, but the industry is speculative and risky by nature because of the ups and downs of the factors which affect it, he pointed out.

But it was worrying that UK barley boats destined for Germany in August were not being commissioned because people didn’t know on what basis the barley would be sold, he added.

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