With only a few weeks to go before the ending of the Brexit Transition period, nine organisations representing Welsh farmers and food producers, have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister to highlight a number of key issues that must be addressed immediately to avoid detrimental impacts to the industry following the end of the transition period.
Many Welsh food and drink businesses rely on the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union to sustain production of their products. The European Union is the largest market for Welsh food and drink businesses to export their goods to, and includes exports of red meat and dairy products worth an estimated £320 million to Wales.
The following six actions are essential for food and drink producers and manufacturers in Wales, the letter states:
- A trade deal allowing tariff free access to the EU market must be reached if acute and long-lasting damage to the food industry is to be avoided. With EU Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs for key Welsh food exports set at values which can often be in the range of 40%-85% of the value of a product – failure to reach a trade deal would devalue exports to levels well below production costs, having a devastating impact on businesses and our livelihoods.
- A six-month grace period should be negotiated and agreed with the EU to allow businesses to adjust to the impacts of the new rules which will be in place for exports – many of which remain unclear – even in the event of a trade deal being agreed.
- Efforts to reduce the impacts of non-tariff barriers must be stepped up, both in terms of the actions that can be taken unilaterally by the UK and what is negotiated with the EU, including a reduction in the frequency of physical checks at borders based on trusted Third Country status. Non-tariff barriers will in any case represent significant additional costs for Welsh businesses, while also threatening deliveries and values of perishable goods produced in Wales, it is essential that such impacts are minimised.
- The food and drink sector must be added to the Shortage Occupation List while taking meaningful steps to improve access to seasonal workers. Skilled and unskilled workers, especially from the EU, play a central role in Wales’ food and drinks sector and restrictions on access to such workers after 31 December 2020 would cause major additional challenges for Welsh businesses and even the future of some processing facilities in Wales that provide large numbers of employment.
- Appropriate physical infrastructure and staffing at UK ports must be in place at the end of any transition or grace period to ensure the smooth flow of products, negotiate agreement with the EU to ensure the same in UK-facing ports while including agricultural and fish products in the priority list for processing at ports due to its perishable nature.
- Financial assistance packages for food and drink producers and manufacturers must be put in place ahead of any changes to trading arrangements to fully make up for the additional costs and significant losses anticipated in the majority of post Withdrawal Period scenarios.
The letter was signed by the following organisations:
British Meat Processors Association
Farmers’ Union of Wales
Food and Drink Federation Cymru
Livestock Auctioneers Association
National Beef Association
National Sheep Association Cymru/Wales
Royal Welsh Agricultural Society
The letter highlights the vital role that the food and drink supply chain plays to the economy of Wales, employing more than 240,000 people and with a combined turnover of more than £22 billion. The letter also highlights the role that trade with the EU plays to the sector with 73% of Welsh food and drink exports currently destined for markets in the European Union.