'UK agriculture will suffer dramatic shock post Brexit'
PUBLISHED: 12:37 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:27 27 March 2019
The chances of much support for UK farming in a post-Brexit future are "pretty small" and a "dramatic shock" to the industry is inevitable, a Suffolk-based food entrepreneur predicts.
William Kendall, who runs organic Maple Farm at Kelsale, near Saxmundham, and was previously behind some well-known food brands such as Green and Black’s organic chocolate and Covent Garden Soup, expressed his fears for the future of British farming.
“My biggest immediate fear as a farmer is a no-deal Brexit. Whilst I think it will affect other business sectors faster – unless you export livestock – the ensuing chaos will lead to an economic slowdown or recession which will hit the whole economy. Britain has lost confidence anyway, and a recession could bring some serious hardship and unrest,” he said.
MORE – Vegetable grower fears food shortages and businesses going bust if government fails to stump up under Brexit
“I don’t think Brexit has proved to be a very good idea. It has failed to deal with the real issues facing European Union (EU) members and created a pointless diversion enabling the rest of the bloc to ignore its problems for a while.”
The one consolation is the end of Britain’s involvement in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which had been “a disaster” for British agriculture and the British countryside, he claimed.
But he believes the chances for much support for farming in the future are “pretty small” given all of the other pressures on taxpayers’ funds.
“I think it is inevitable that agriculture in Britain will undergo a dramatic shock and, unless you are equipped to run profitably without any support, you will have a big problem with land prices falling sharply unless outside investors are attracted in quickly,” he said.
“People talk about what happened in New Zealand as an example of a farming sector which can thrive without subsidies. But they usually forget to mention that in the 1980s there took place on its doorstep the rapid economic rise of China and the rest of populous Asia, hungry for imported food. Britain has no equivalent.”
In the short term, he has “only fears” for UK agriculture.
“Over time, my hope is that the vacuum caused by Brexit will encourage more entrepreneurial attitudes into the industry including an understanding – normal in other sectors – that you need to see how you could make a good return before you invest capital and commit to a lot of hard work,” he said.
But he added: “Farmers are resilient so enough will survive to reap the benefits of this brave new world.”