In its latest Horizon report, it details Brexit prospects for UK agri-food trade in the case of both an orderly withdrawal and a no-deal scenario, and looks at how they will affect trade across the UK’s main farming sectors, including beef and lamb.
It believes that UK exports of agricultural and horticultural products are likely to be rendered uncompetitive if World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs come into play on exports to the EU
AHDB Beef and Lamb strategy director Will Jackson said: “The prospect of a no-deal scenario cannot be ignored. This would have a seismic impact on UK trade, with major implications for the farming sectors.
“At AHDB we are working to raise awareness of those potential impacts for sheep and beef farmers, through reports like this and our online Brexit hub. More specifically, we are exploring ways to open new markets abroad for UK produce.”
The report found that the sheep meat sector is likely to be the worst hit by a no-deal Brexit. It estimated that UK exports would “suffer considerably” if WTO tariffs of up to 50% of the price of meat were put in place – a huge blow to the UK’s competitiveness.
In addition, around 90% of UK sheep meat exports are to the EU, meaning a no-deal is likely to hit sheep farmers’ incomes.
It also warned there was the possibility that UK sheep meat exports to the EU could slow down dramatically if the necessary export health certification process became slow or cumbersome.
On the beef side, exports to the EU were predicted to be limited considerably if tariffs, which are sometimes as high as the price of the product itself, were introduced. Again, if the UK Government dropped tariffs on imports, UK beef could see increased competition, meaning lower prices and returns for farmers.
Elsewhere in the report, National Farmers’ Union chief poultry advisor Gary Ford said the industry could be placed under price pressure in the event of a no-deal.
“In terms of trade, the UK’s position as a net importer of poultry meat means that if the UK decided to impose third-country tariffs on imports from the EU, domestic prices would increase, which is unlikely to be acceptable to consumers. Import substitution is not really an option given that the UK’s consumption of chicken breasts would mean it would need to more than double the size of its current flock and then have to find a home for the other parts of the bird for which there is not as much domestic demand – for example, the dark meat.
“Under a ‘no deal’ scenario, if the UK opted to keep poultry meat imports from the EU tariff-free, then it would have to do the same for all countries, under WTO rules,” he added. “As a result, the UK could see high volumes of cheaper poultry meat coming in, making it difficult for UK producers to compete in terms of price. Cheaper poultry meat imports could also compete with demand for British red meat.”