A last minute Brexit deal meaning trade with the EU can continue without tariffs and quotas has brought some comfort to British farmers but there are still big concerns over seed potato exports.
EU president Ursula von der Leyen said it had been a ‘long and winding road’ but an agreement had been reached today (December 24).
Rural organisations said farmers would breathe ‘a huge sigh of relief’.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “The tariff-free element will be a particular relief for farmers that rely heavily on the EU export market, such as our sheep farmers, as well as farmers across British agriculture that produce the safe, traceable and affordable food that underpins more than £14 billion worth of export sales each year to the EU.
“It does remain the case though that our relationship with the EU will experience a fundamental change at the end of the transition period on January 1, 2021 and we do anticipate that there will still be disruption to trade at the border.
"New checks, paperwork and requirements on traders will add costs and complexity. It is vital Government does all it can now to prioritise exports of our high quality, perishable agricultural products to make sure that these products are not left languishing in queues at the border when the changes take effect."
NFU Cymru president John Davies added: “These non-tariff barriers are a friction to trade and add to the cost of doing business.
“Until we actually move towards the new trading arrangement with the EU in just a few days’ time we cannot know precisely how it is going to bed in.
“In the short to medium term there may well be some volatility in our sector, and so we need the UK Government to continue to monitor market conditions and be prepared to react if need be.”
Unions will scrutinise the full text of the agreement to assess the full impacts and benefits.
CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: "If this deal includes zero tariffs and zero quotas for agricultural products, European consumers can carry on enjoying world class British products without any major increase in price.
“But a word of warning: we have seen this week the importance of keeping trade routes open, particularly between Dover and Calais.
"Trade in perishable food is especially vulnerable to friction at ports – so it is now hugely important that UK and EU politicians continue to find ways to make trade between our markets as simple and low-friction as possible.”
Earlier, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the UK Government of ‘selling out’ farmers in Scotland after it emerged seed potatoes were not set to be included in a post-Brexit trade deal.
Scottish growers are one of the biggest exporters of seed potatoes in the world. The sector is worth about £112 million a year.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the union had been highlighting this issue over several months, with both UK and Scottish Governments.
"It has been recognised by all as a problem that needs sorting. With a trade deal now announced between the UK and the EU, this must stimulate fresh negotiations to facilitate EU trade and to restore exports of our prized high health seed potatoes," said Mr Mc Cornick.
“Whatever the details of the deal, wrapped up in more than 2,000 pages, there will be friction.
"Our new trading arrangement with the EU will not be a continuation of what we have just now. New demands on paperwork and new rules around certification will bring a period of adjustment, the potential for delay and add additional costs.”
Speaking as the deal was announced, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it brought a new ’stability and certainty’ to the UK and its relationship with the EU.
He said the Government would continue to support Britain’s farming industry as it operated outside the trading bloc.
When questioned on the details of the deal, Mr Johnson said he would not rule out tariffs on EU products which did not meet the UK’s high standards, for example if pork was produced using sow stalls which are banned in the UK.