by Tom Hind, chief officer for agriculture
and horticulture development board
THE referendum decision of June 23 heralds perhaps the most significant turning point for Welsh agriculture since the UK’s accession to the EEC in
the 1970s. Our role at AHDB is to help farmers make sense of the issues surrounding Brexit which we’ve been doing through a series of ‘Horizon’ reports on the key issues including our future relationship with the EU, the impact on the labour force and trade. These can be downloaded from our website www.ahdb.org.uk The most significant issue for the industry is the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the rest of the EU. It’s a fact that agricultural trade is heavily dependent on the EU. And although the balance of trade is in favour of the EU because the UK produces less than we consume domestically, our exports to the EU are significant. This is especially the case for important Welsh agricultural sectors such as lamb where EU exports are critical to carcase balance and add value to the industry. Losing these markets, through the introduction of tariffs (i.e a cost to export to the EU) or non‐tariff barriers would have a potentially massive impact on Welsh agriculture. The trading relationship is also important because it will heavily influence the regulatory and policy environment that farmers have to work in. The more we retain full access to the EU single market, the less room for manoeuvre exists on policies such as restrictions on migration. At this stage, the British government hasn’t declared its hand on its negotiating strategy and how much access to the single market it would like to negotiate. This is critical. But under any scenario it is likely that the industry will face greater pressure to compete, which will require a much greater focus on addressing production costs on farm and across the supply chain. There are undeniably market opportunities for Welsh producers as a result of Brexit. It will give some scope to design a farm policy that is fit for Wales whilst encouraging government and industry to seek out new export markets. Our products should have a strong reputation for high quality, traceability and production standards. But we must also offer the products consumers overseas want to buy at a price they will pay. This will need the industry to take a much more targeted approach to exports and invest time and effort in building the reputation of our products as well as understanding what we need to do to meet the certification requirements to export. AHDB has a track record in this area. We will play a major part in helping the industry understand how to exploit these opportunities, working closely with governments in Wales and Westminster as well as our partners in HCC.