Brexit uncertainty is 'crippling' UK dairy sector, NFU says

NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said the sector is 'in the dark' amid political uncertainty
NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said the sector is 'in the dark' amid political uncertainty

Investment in the UK dairy sector is being 'put on hold' and 'essential' jobs are not being filled due to ongoing political uncertainty, the NFU says.

The union fears the continued political impasse and the uncertain post-Brexit landscape is causing 'crippling' damage to dairy farming.

The European Union is the largest international trading partner for the UK dairy sector.

Between 2013 to 2017, more than 90% of UK dairy exports were sent to the EU, highlighting the significance of any future relationship.

And while the NFU says there are opportunities for the sector once the UK leaves the EU, this is being stalled due to future uncertainty, according to NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes.

He said investment in the UK dairy sector is being 'put on hold and essential jobs are not being filled'.

“Dairy farming, like all businesses, requires long-term planning. But after months of negotiation, we still haven’t got any certainty about our future which is hugely damaging.

“We’re still in the dark about what trading environment we will be operating under and whether we will have access to a sufficient workforce to carry out essential roles on our dairy farms, or what the UK’s future domestic agricultural policy will look like,” he said.

Mr Oakes highlighted how UK dairy farmers are keen to make the most of trading with the world post-Brexit.

However, he said the sector must not be 'undermined' by the government on any future trade policy which ignores the UK's high food and environmental standards.

“Once we have certainty about our future relationship with the EU, we need government to look at how it can support the growth of the British dairy sector by helping us access key markets and invest in domestic processing capacity to allow the industry to meet demand.”

He added: “Meanwhile, we continue to call on both the government and parliament to ensure that the extension to our leaving date is used constructively and a solution is found which enables the UK to leave the EU in an orderly way, avoiding the risk of another cliff-edge no-deal situation in October.”

Mr Oakes will be speaking about Brexit uncertainty as part of a panel debate on Thursday 23 May at the Eucolait dairy conference in Edinburgh.