East Anglian pig sector ‘could be at risk in event of ‘no deal’ Brexit’
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
A ‘no deal’ Brexit would be “potentially disastrous” for the British pig sector at a time when its overall financial viability is already under pressure, an expert has warned.
The East Anglian region is heavily dependent on agriculture as a major industry, particularly as far as outdoor pig units – which now account for an estimated 45% of all UK pig production systems across the country – are concerned, said Bury St Edmunds pig consultant Peter Crichton.
“A combination of tariffs and currency fluctuations could throw the whole pig production system into the red at a time when feed prices are already rising and pig meat values are under pressure,” he warned as the mid-January parliamentary vote approaches.
“All sectors of the agricultural industry and in particular pig farmers, will be looking long and hard at the implications of a no-deal or settlement of the issue and the effect that this will have upon their livelihoods and future,” he said.
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With the possibility large tariffs on exports including pig meat could be applied, this would affect the industry’s opportunities to sell into the European Union (EU) market as a whole, he warned.
It could also cause delays while the UK looks to obtain the necessary consents from the EU to export animals and animal products, he said. He feared port delays due to the lack of necessary border inspection facilities following reports the EU wants all exports checked.
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“This could lead to yet more bureaucracy while the appropriate export health certificates are drafted coupled with the reduction of availability for EU labour which is a vital cornerstone to the vegetable and meat farming industry in East Anglia and beyond,” he said.
Backing prime minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal would avoid the disruption of a no-deal situation and would also allow the UK to make progress on the further reforms which could in the long term enhance its position as major high welfare food producers, he argued.
“In the meantime, according to reports published by the National Pig Association, a Brexit cloud is hanging over the pig industry and the NPA are urging MPs to back the existing Brexit agreement subject to the necessary parliamentary support being obtained, A combination of punitive export tariffs and government suggestions to waive import tariffs to keep domestic food prices low could be a double whammy for the whole farming industry,” he said.
“Although there are opportunities to expand existing overseas markets such as China, where African Swine Fever is also cutting a swathe through their pig herd, these will all take some time to nurture and cultivate and the industry’s immediate concerns must be how the imposition of export/import barriers might affect them with effect from March onwards.”