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No-deal Brexit could be disastrous for East Anglia's pig farms, says consultant

PUBLISHED: 12:17 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:17 14 January 2019

Peter Crichton is concerned about the effect a 'no deal' Brexit might have on East Anglia's large pig sector  Picture:  SARAH LUCY BROWN

Peter Crichton is concerned about the effect a 'no deal' Brexit might have on East Anglia's large pig sector Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A no-deal Brexit would be "potentially disastrous" for East Anglia's pig farms at a time when the sector's overall financial viability is already under pressure, an expert has warned.

Bury St Edmunds pig consultant Peter Crichton with outdoor pigs Picture: GREGG BROWNBury St Edmunds pig consultant Peter Crichton with outdoor pigs Picture: GREGG BROWN

The region’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, particularly as far as outdoor pig units – which now account for an estimated 45pc of all UK pig production systems across the country – are concerned, said Bury St Edmunds pig consultant Peter Crichton.

“A combination of tariffs and currency fluctuations could throw the whole pig production system into the red at a time when feed prices are already rising and pig meat values are under pressure,” he warned, as the parliamentary vote on the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement approaches.

“All sectors of the agricultural industry and in particular pig farmers, will be looking long and hard at the implications of a no-deal or settlement of the issue and the effect that this will have upon their livelihoods and future,” he said.

With the possibility large tariffs could be applied on exports including pig meat, this would affect the industry’s opportunities to sell into the European Union (EU) market as a whole, he warned.

It could also cause delays while the UK looks to obtain the necessary consents from the EU to export animals and animal products, he said. He also fears port delays due to the lack of necessary border inspection facilities following reports the EU wants all exports checked.

“This could lead to yet more bureaucracy while the appropriate export health certificates are drafted coupled with the reduction of availability for EU labour, which is a vital cornerstone to the vegetable and meat farming industry in East Anglia and beyond,” he said.

If MPs backed Theresa May’s withdrawal deal it would avoid the disruption of a no-deal situation and would also allow the UK to make progress on the further reforms which could, in the long term, enhance its position as major high-welfare food producer, he argued.

“In the meantime, according to reports published by the National Pig Association (NPA), a Brexit cloud is hanging over the pig industry and the NPA is urging MPs to back the existing Brexit agreement subject to the necessary parliamentary support being obtained,” he said.

“A combination of punitive export tariffs and government suggestions to waive import tariffs to keep domestic food prices low could be a double whammy for the whole farming industry.”

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