Organic farmers are facing the nightmare scenario of an effective trade embargo on their products destined for the EU if Britain leaves without a deal.
John Pawsey, chairman of the NFU organic forum, says a no-deal Brexit would mean UK producers needing the EU to formally recognise UK organic production standards and accept these as equivalent to EU standards. Without recognition for UK organic standards, organic products destined for the EU market would have to be sold as conventional and would therefore lose the premiums they need in order to cover the higher costs of production.
Around nine per cent of organic sales are via exports, which equated to approximately £188 million in 2016.
The NFU insists it is vital a deal is agreed to ensure an orderly Brexit and avoid immediate serious problems for British farmers and growers and food production. The union is writing to Defra secretary Michael Gove to highlight this as a further example of where leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for UK agriculture.
Pawsey said: “There is currently no mechanism in place to facilitate the equivalent process within the European Commission and estimated timescales of achieving this recognition could be as long as nine months.
“It appears to have been left to certification bodies to work out how this can be achieved. Exports are an important part of the supply chain for British organic farmers and growers and we fear the consequences of excess product being trapped in the UK and the impacts that would have.
“The UK government has already taken a step towards trying to ensure continuity of trade for organic products through the introduction of a statutory instrument which stipulates the UK will continue to recognise EU control bodies for a designated time period of 21 months. I would like to see this transition period reciprocated for UK organic products entering the EU market in a no-deal scenario.
“We continue to urge government and MPs not to leave the EU on these terms. If no deal is reached, the NFU would like to see the process of gaining recognition expedited as quickly as possible.”