How a No-Deal Brexit Could Hit U.K. Farmers Both Home and Abroad

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. farmers will find it harder to sell their goods abroad while at the same time potentially facing more competition at home under a no-deal Brexit, according to an agricultural advisory group.

That’s because World Trade Organization tariffs would make U.K. supplies less attractive for European buyers, and finding new markets quickly for things like lamb would be almost impossible, the U.K.’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said. If Britain lowers import duties to stem food inflation, that could mean more competition in the domestic market.

“The increase in the possibility of a no-deal is the most worrying aspect,” Sarah Baker, one of the authors of the AHDB report, said by phone. The concern is about losing “access to EU markets suddenly due to large tariff barriers and our products becoming less competitive.”

The U.K. farm industry, which sends about two-thirds of its exports to the European Union, could be one of the most affected sectors under a no-deal Brexit, according to the AHDB. That’s partly because of the time it takes to grow crops or rear animals such as cattle, meaning it would take longer to adjust.

Here’s how some parts of farming could be affected, according to the AHDB:

Meat

Export tariffs of more than 40 percent would make British lamb uncompetitive “overnight,” leading to more local supply and pushing down prices. A similar scenario would also apply to beef, and could be compounded by a flood of imports, further hurting domestic producers. Because U.K. consumers favor eating certain parts of pigs, there’s also a risk of Britain facing an oversupply of the pork it doesn’t use.

Milk and Cheese

Since large volumes of U.K. milk are exported to Ireland to process into products such as cheddar cheese, the introduction of import and export tariffs would make that process uneconomical.

More on Brexit and and the U.K. food industry
  • Supermarkets Warn Government of Empty Shelves in No-Deal Brexit
  • Rabobank Lists Scenarios for U.K. Food Under No-Deal Brexit
  • May Sets Out to Win Labour Rebels’ Support Over Brexit Deal

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.