Expert opinion

An end to Brexit uncertainty could be in sight

Export orders for British poultrymeat cancelled, the threat of tariff-free egg imports with no regard for equivalent welfare standards and ongoing labour problems. Just some of the uncertainties of Brexit.

Alongside some of those latest issues thrown up by the confusion that is Brexit is the past 3 years of uncertainty as well as the stockpiling that businesses have had to undertake – all while the pound is at near historic lows.

Not to mention a number of signs pointing to a possible recession on the way, and you have a fairly depressing prospect for poultry producers in the UK.

No-deal Brexit stifling orders

The sombre tone is reflected in some of the output of the UK’s farm lobby of late. The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), for example, says that with the threat of a no-deal Brexit, its members are struggling to get orders that stretch beyond 31 October.

Treat of rising traiffs

It’s no surprise, as tariffs as high as 65% could be imposed on meat products going to Europe in that instance overnight. Insurers are not prepared to indemnify against losses in such a scenario, the BMPA says. “Couple that with a volatile exchange rate, mooted border delays and complete uncertainty surrounding whether Brexit will even happen on 31 October means the obvious solution for EU buyers is to source product from elsewhere,” it adds.

Meanwhile, the NFU has said it is “critical” that tariffs protect egg farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Earlier this year it was announced that the government would not impose taxes on imported eggs if the UK leaves without a deal.

Phill Crawley, managing director of Sunrise Eggs, one of the UK’s largest egg businesses and a member of the NFU poultry board, has warned “the make-up of our industry could look very different with imports of cheaper, lower standard egg products making their way on to shelves and into food products.”

Challenges for liquid egg market

Of particular concern is the liquid egg market, he says, which comprises a tradeable product that does not benefit to the same extent from retailer commitment to buy British as fresh shell eggs. Around 50% of egg imports coming from the EU into the UK are in dried or liquid egg form.

One possible silver lining is the prospect of all this uncertainty coming to a close – the new prime minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said leaving the EU without any more delays is his top priority.

It may be the case, and however disruptive, businesses can adapt – they just need to be reasonably certain of the environment in which they operate.