The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) strategy chief has warned the farming industry is not doing enough to start ‘laying the ground’ for changes after the UK leaves the EU.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, Tom Hind said farmers would need to drive up productivity growth and understand their future customers if the industry was to succeed post-Brexit.
“The potential scale of the challenge and change for some sectors has not landed yet”, he added.
“We are a long way off leaving the EU, but the debate is still being couched in terms of the existing landscape and not the potential landscape of the future. We need to start changing that now.”
Mr Hind also hinted the process of joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) may not be seamless.
He said: “The UK is a member of the WTO only by virtue of being an EU member, so the first thing the UK needs to do is apply to join the WTO in our own right.”
Roberto Azevedo, the WTO’s director general, has already said there is no precedent for a WTO member leaving an economic union while inside the organisation.
The process of joining as an independent country could take longer than expected because all other member states would have to agree to any new position for the UK.
Things could be especially complicated for agriculture because tariff-rate quotas, which allow access to a country for a certain amount of produce with lower duties, are the subject of much bilateral bartering.
It is likely that the UK Government would have to agree to take over a portion of the EU quota, or add a new quota itself. The process could be held up for a long time if other exporting countries saw an opportunity to increase their market access – which would have an impact on Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals.