AIC is the voice of the Agri-supply industry - promoting efficient commercial agriculture and representing the suppliers of Animal Feed, Crop Protection and Agronomy, Fertilisers, Grain and Seeds to a value of £8 Billion per annum throughout the UK and Northern Ireland.
Alongside the business community in general, we have been following the domestic political debate around the UK leaving the EU with an over-riding concern as to the future of farmers and businesses in the wider agri-food sector in which we operate. As a trade body representing the principle suppliers of farm inputs throughout the UK we have been reviewing both the Withdrawal Agreement and the declaration on the future trading relationship. While we recognise that in any negotiation there are compromises to be made our aim has been to push for a conclusion which keeps the level of “friction” to a minimum and allows our industry to continue competing in the EU market – for us the most significant single export marketplace we have, or are likely to have for years to come.
The agri-food industry has been consistent in its view that the most damaging situation for the sector would be for the UK to leave the EU without a deal and for trade to operate to WTO terms from 29th March 2019. Whilst we recognise that progress is being made by the Government on the rolling over of a range of EU: third country trading arrangements, there is little likelihood this process will be completed by 29th March and therefore the competitive position of the sector is put into serious jeopardy.
We understand that the UK Government, in such a situation, will prioritise the removal or reduction of import duties to ensure domestic prices, particularly for food, do not rise. We have yet to see how Government would support domestic production, a sector which will see its competitiveness significantly undermined by such a strategy.
According to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, agriculture and food is one of the UK’s biggest manufacturing sectors, employing one in eight people (3.9 million) and generation more than £110 billion per year. Of critical strategic importance from food security, environmental management and rural social cohesion perspectives, its views have to be taken into account by Parliament as it determines the future direction of the UK.
We would urge elected representatives to consider not only the political issues which drive the Westminster environment but also the business and economic drivers which underpin UK prosperity and support a deal which gives certainty to business and which allows the best opportunity to move through a transition period and into the development of a future trading relationship with our biggest export customer.
Head of Policy & External Relations