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From the editor: Broken food system, not Brexit, is farming's biggest threat

Processors warning that the price of lamb might drop as a result of a hard Brexit ties in to a wider wrangle about the level of exposure for farmers, processors and retailers in the event of no-deal, and who might get Government contingency funding.

The British Meat Processors Association urging the Government to avoid tariff disruption is what lobbying organisations do and it will be working hard on behalf of its members to try and keep costs down post-October 31, or whenever we finally exit the EU.

 

The processing sector works on tight margins, be that in red meat or dairy, and the spectre of World Trade Organisation tariffs will be making many uncomfortable about how they will sell the glut of lambs this back-end if exports become prohibitive, as well as ensuring access to less expensive imports stays open.

 

They will also, as ever, be feeling the pinch due to the pressure exerted on them by the retail sector, which, on the whole, is looking for volume sales as cheaply as possible. It has been a gripe of the farming industry for years that many in retail do not properly back British produce in their sourcing policies.

 

Yes the EU is a major destination for British lamb, but given the vast amounts of imported product displayed on UK supermarket shelves surely there are opportunities for UK farmers to displace some of that lamb, particularly from New Zealand.


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It is the same with beef and dairy; instead of importing huge volumes of Cheddar and beef from Ireland, how about getting it from these shores instead.

 

Regardless of the panic about Brexit, the broken structure of our domestic food sourcing systems will continue to have repercussions for farmers in the longterm, far more than a protracted exit from the EU.

 

Further still, a robust and effective assurance scheme, paid for and engaged in by all the major retailers and which ensures product emblazoned with the Union Flag is actually from the UK, not just processed here, would also aid farming’s cause. As would a groceries ombudsman with teeth.

 

Forget sunlit uplands post-Brexit, this Government should set about creating a food system which enables farmers to thrive from market returns, not merely survive.

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