A comprehensive new economic report examining the impact of possible post-Brexit trade deals on agriculture in Wales is ‘stark reading’ for the Welsh livestock industry, NFU Cymru warns.
The independent report carried out by the Agri-Food and Biosciences institute (AFBI) in Dublin in conjunction with the University of Missouri using the widely respected FAPRI UK modelling system, has assessed the impact of three different post Brexit trade scenarios on agriculture in Wales and the rest of the UK:
• Bespoke free trade agreement with the EU (tariff and quota free)
• World Trade organisation (WTO) default Most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs; and
• Unilateral trade liberalisation (zero tariffs on imports, UK exports face MFN tariffs.
The results show that a bespoke free trade agreement with the EU would result in minimal disruption for the key commodities grown and produced in Wales.
The WTO default scenario, which has tariffs imposed on all imports and exports, has a positive impact on a number of sectors, including beef and dairy, but a massive detrimental impact on the sheep sector.
Unilateral trade liberalisation, whereby the UK Government sets zero tariff on imports but exports face tariffs, is very damaging on price and production for all sectors modelled.
NFU Cymru Deputy President John Davies said: “The report makes stark reading for the Welsh livestock industry; unilateral trade liberalisation is predicted to have a devastating impact on specialist suckler beef production with a drop of around 60% in the suckler beef herd and a drop of nearly 20% in the sheep flock.
“The impact for Wales would be far reaching, not just for farmers but also for the rural economy reliant on farmers accessing goods and services in rural communities. The loss of our productive capacity would question the viability of the thousands of jobs involved in processing and adding value to Welsh beef and lamb and impact on our cherished landscapes that rely on extensive livestock production for their management, maintenance and protection.
“The FAPRI-UK work shows that the impact of Brexit on farmers is highly dependent on the policy decisions the UK Government will take post Brexit. It highlights why NFU Cymru is seeking, as a priority, an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU that maintains two-way tariff-free trade in agricultural products.
“While the WTO default scenario may look positive for sectors where we import more than we export, this would be a highly protectionist outcome and it is highly unlikely that any future government would tolerate the subsequent rise in food prices for the consumer of such an arrangement. I am sure we would quickly progress to a unilateral trade liberalisation scenario.
“This report once again highlights the importance of trade to Welsh agriculture and that unfettered access to EU markets is crucial to the future prosperity of agriculture and the food and drink industry in Wales.
“I am pleased that the UK Government now appears to accept the importance of the UK and the EU continuing to trade within a customs union for a transitional period following our departure from the EU in 2019. If this is achievable I would hope it would provide the necessary breathing space to allow for the UK and EU to agree a free and frictionless trade deal, along the lines of the FTA scenario in this report.
“As the modelling shows, this will cause the least amount of disruption to our industry and allow us to focus on developing a future domestic policy framework to help achieve our vison of a productive, progressive and profitable Welsh agricultural industry.”