Sheep farmers in the UK have appealed for a plan to ensure sheep farming and sheepmeat supply chain businesses do not go under, due to exiting the EU without a deal on October 31.
National Sheep Association Chief Executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA has repeatedly called for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit to be avoided at all costs, and we are hugely alarmed by the rhetoric of Boris Johnson and his new cabinet in recent days, even though this may be part of a negotiating tactic.
“Such a scenario would be disastrous for our industry at any time, but late October is when a huge peak of UK lamb will be reaching the market.” The EU is the normal market destination for nearly 40% of the UK’s sheepmeat production. “As an industry, we cannot operate with 40-50% tariffs on exports.”
Mr Stocker said a number of steps are immediately essential and cannot be put off until October. He said tariff relief is their preferred option to keep the market functioning after a no-deal Brexit. He also called for temporary closure of the UK to sheepmeat imports. He advised the UK government to invest in cold storage capacity, and use public procurement markets such as the armed forces, schools and hospitals, to “make the most of what would otherwise be a catastrophe”.
“What absolutely must not be allowed to happen is a mass cull of lambs with no attempt to get them into the food chain.
“This would be an obscene waste and would have future capacity impacts for our sector.
“It can be avoided if the right steps are taken now.”
The sheepfarmers’ fears reflect widespread belief in the UK that the chances of the UK and the EU striking a deal by October 31 are remote. The trade body representing food manufacturers in the UK has also warned Johnson leaving the EU without a deal could do “mortal damage” to the sector.