If farm gate prices drop as a result of leaving the EU with no deal, Government support must be targeted at farmers and feeders with animals to sell into the slaughter market, says LAA executive secretary Chris Dodds.
The questions are still being asked and the answers remain the same – how can we prepare our businesses for the marketing of livestock after October 31 when we don’t know if we will have access to the EU market with, or without, tariffs.
Our Prime Minister has assured the sheep sector a support package will be delivered if we see a crash in farm gate prices as a result of exiting the EU without a deal and being forced to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, with their associated tariffs.
However, there have not been any similar proposals announced for the other sectors in our industry and I am sure they will all be affected.
Although we are now less than one month away from exiting the EU, it is still unclear how this promised support package will be managed, how much money there is available to deliver it, or how much of a price crash we need to see before it will be triggered.
There has been wide debate in sectors of our industry about who should receive any sheep support.
If we experience a dramatic drop in farm gate prices as a consequence of leaving the EU without a deal, it is very clear in my mind that any Government rescue package to assist the sheep industry should be paid to those who sustain the loss.
I suggest this would primarily be those farmers and feeders who have animals to sell into the slaughter market after the UK exit date.
Like all sectors in agriculture, the sheep supply chain is fragile, and we must ensure any package provided reaches those who need it the most if we are to keep the whole supply chain in business the following year.
At this stage of the talks, we are told the rescue package being discussed would only be available for this season’s trade disruption.
We need, therefore, to make sure any available support helps the industry maintain a realistic end value for our lambs, keeping all links in the supply chain afloat this year and in the future.
2019 may not go down in the history books as the best year ever for market prices and trends, but when I look back at the five-year average, it has been reasonably good.
It would also be fair to say there has been little, if any, impact so far on trade from the threat of the UK leaving the EU at the end of this month.
As our Prime Minister presents his solution for a Brexit deal, let’s hope our Parliament and the EU can come together, in the interests of the UK and every country in the EU, to find an outcome which provides for a free trade deal.
Such a result would mean there is no need for a Government support package.