Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, explains why he believes future Government policy should not be based on driving up already high animal welfare standards.
I am confident, as chair of the UK Livestock Brexit Group and with my role as executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association that the UK Government and Defra are working hard to prepare for Brexit, but the truth of the matter is until Theresa May strikes a deal with Brussels, we do not know which way we are going, or indeed how much of an impact any ‘deal’ will have on our farming enterprises, their profitability and subsequent future.
On top of these uncertainties, we still await clarity of the UK Government’s future policies for food, farming and the environment.
In recent months we have benefitted from unprecedented prices for our old season lambs/hoggets, which have been driven by supply and demand and the competitive marketplace the live auction system provides.
But we should not simply assume we can achieve a similar trade for our farm products post-Brexit.
There are a wealth of conditions which need to be in place before we can be confident that the marketplace, as we know it today, can operate efficiently and deliver the demand we are all presently enjoying.
Having said that, the trade we are experiencing, especially for sheep meat, tells us our produce is wanted – especially in Europe.
It is promising to see sectors of the supply chain developing and expanding many of their markets.
If the UK comes out of the Brexit negotiations without tariffs on red meat exports, we can expect demand to remain strong.
However, if we are burdened with tariffs, this will have an impact on the economic viability of exporting our products.
The UK is acknowledged as having some of the highest welfare standards in the world, much of which is underpinned by exceptionally good farm husbandry standards implemented by our producers.
We must not allow future Government policy and support to be too heavily based on even higher welfare standards.
Such add-ons would undoubtedly add to the cost of production and could make our products unsaleable in many of their current marketplaces due to cost.
We all agree welfare standards are important, but we must be competitive and we should not be burdened by additional standards which are not applied in all of our trade partners’ countries.
There are genuine concerns within the industry about Government’s belief that higher welfare standards will open new markets for our products.
Recent consumer purchase consideration surveys conducted around the world identified quality, price, health and food safety as the main considerations made by consumers when buying food. Welfare was not identified as a consideration.