After Brexit, farmers will need to compete on the global market, making better promotion of red meat at home and abroad vital, says Livestock Auctioneers Association executive secretary Chris Dodds.
After endless months of intense discussions and debates, resulting from the realisation of just how much preparation must be completed before the UK leaves the EU if we are to achieve anything close to ‘life as normal’, we now appear to be in a period of calm following the UK’s delay to exiting.
I fear, however, that we will be faced with another storm of activity and panic before the next Brexit deadline date approaches as the scale of the job in hand once again becomes evident.
Some two years ago, I established the UK Livestock Brexit Group, which now consists of 23 industry representative organisations from throughout Great Britain, in addition to representatives from AHDB, HCC, QMS, Defra, Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly.
It is unprecedented to have so many industry organisations in one room every month discussing the future of our industry in such a positive and thought-provoking way.
The group has enabled us all to better understand the issues surrounding the different sectors and businesses within our supply chain, making everyone more aware of the myriad of concerns we face and must find answers to.
The breadth of knowledge our group brings and the involvement of Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly have enabled us to make sure those people discussing our future in the UK Government and the EU are more knowledgeable and have a better understanding of the needs of our industry.
It is encouraging how much work has already been done in preparation for leaving the EU, in a relatively short time, but there are still endless fundamental issues to be resolved.
Clearly the most important issue for us all is finding out what trade deal we may, or may not have, with the EU post-Brexit.
This is especially important with the new exit date at the end of October being right in the middle of our busiest marketing season for sheep and cattle.
We know once we leave the EU we will be listed as a ‘third country’, meaning we will have to compete in the open market without the protection of the EU bubble and the many trade deals which go with it.
This means there is a clear need for more promotion of UK red meat products, not only to our UK customers but also around the world.
There is a huge amount of work needed to educate our customers and get them to appreciate the products produced by UK farmers.
We may need to become more reliant on shoppers demanding British products and we should all support those retail outlets which have committed to only selling British beef and lamb.
To drive this initiative, we all need to do more to help our UK customers understand the benefits of supporting British agriculture, rather than simply buying the cheapest product available to them on the shelves.
We need to ensure our industry can rise to the challenges of the new marketplace, while doing so in such a way that everyone in the chain can continue to run successful businesses and have the resource available to them to re-invest in their future.
I am confident that the future is bright, but we must all work together, remaining united and not fragmented.
The UK Livestock Brexit Group is a good example of how industry can come together to find solutions which will benefit the entire supply chain.