British grain will not do well outside EU due to 'low volume and poor harvest'

21.11.2017

AHDB's Dr Grantley-Smith said it is "impossible" for British grain producers to compete outside the EU

Britain's grain sector will not do well outside of the EU because of its low volumes and poor harvest, a farming body has warned.

Speaking at a UK parliamentary committee inquiry, Dr Martin Grantley-Smith from AHDB said non-EU grain producers such as Russia, Ukraine or the US have been "exporting perfectly" for a very long time, and equally in volumes that Britain "can’t imagine".

Dr Grantley-Smith, who is the AHDB’s strategy director for cereals and oilseeds, told the ‘Brexit: Trade in Food’ inquiry in London on Wednesday (15 November): “It is difficult to see how a customer would change from an existing supplier of large volumes, guaranteed every year, to someone like the UK, who cannot guarantee the volume and indeed has a poor harvest.”

He added: “Turkey, for example, exports five million tonnes of flour a year. That is the same as Britain’s whole production.” He said it is "impossible" for British grain producers to compete outside the EU.

Michael Hambly, Chairman of NFU Crops Board, explained that he too shares Grantley-Smith's reservations over the Britain's grain sector outside of the EU.

Mr Hambly said: “In most circumstances, British cereal farmers are net exporters of grain, with 80% of exports finding their way into the EU market, specifically Spain and Portugal.”

Buy British

But he said there are possibilities to look further into markets in North Africa, the Far East and Saudi Arabia, where demand for UK exports of animal feed and malted barley are high.

Mr Hambly said the way to increase demand for British is to “demonstrate that the wheat Britain has is suitable for production in non-British traditional bread.” He said that the UK government must do more to promote this.

However, he said creating new trade deals with non-EU countries is not a ‘quick-fix’ to Brexit. For example, the protocols required for China to legally import barley from Britain “took six years to materialise”.

The £100m trade deal between Britain and China for the export of British barley was signed in November 2015. The five-year project was estimated to yield a potential gain of £20m per year to the UK and involve more than 30 organisations across the UK barley supply chain.

But two years into the deal, “Britain is still to actually export its grain to China,” he said.

According to Dr Grantley-Smith, Britain can create new trade relations by creating opportunities for Britain to access markets, “which is in the hands of the government”, and encourage industry to “push its way into those markets”.


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