DEFRA has “signalled its intent” by failing to protect British egg production in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to the BEIC’s Mark Williams.
Whatever the likelihood of Britain leaving Europe without an agreement in place, he says the decision not to impose tariffs on eggs or egg products in the event of no-deal shows it is unlikely British farmers will be offered special protection when Britain is outside Europe.
“To say we are furious is an understatement,” Mr Williams told Poultry
If tariffs are set at zero, the food manufacturing industry has most to benefit from lower egg prices and access to more markets.
This will be disruptive to trade, but a real threat to the British market could be Ukraine, which continues to keep birds in barren battery cages.
“We could see Class A shell egg from Ukraine – not on supermarket shelves – but certainly in smaller shops and other outlets,” warned Mr Williams.
Recently, the BEIC, along with the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming, wrote to Defra highlighting the work to improve welfare, in particular, on UK farms.
“For decades the industry has worked with government, unsubsidised, to improve standards of animal welfare and environmental practices.
We have done so because it was the right thing to do and a desire of the public and successive governments,” says the letter.
“Under this government and your stewardship, we have gone even further. From enhancing the Code of Practice for Laying Hens to the Laying Hen Welfare Forum, which is working towards stopping beak trimming, as is government’s wish, we have cooperated fully in looking to help you achieve your vision of agriculture in the UK.”
The lack of protection puts that “partnership” in jeopardy, accordingn to the BEIC.
It says it has “consistently” lobbied the British government over the higher cost of production that British farmers face, in particular noting a letter sent at the beginning of March citing research to that effect.
Defra said its tariffs aimed to “balance the varying interests of UK producers and consumers, protecting producers where they need it most while avoiding any negative impacts on consumers”.
It added that they were temporary, and would only apply in a no-deal scenario for up to 12 months. Over that period, a full review and public consultation would take place to develop a permanent tariff regime.
Some protection would be afforded to poultrymeat producers, with tariffs set on average at 60% of their current levels within Europe. But that could create complications around at the border in Northern Ireland, the British Poultry Council said.