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spring / summer 2017 |

aspects of land



Low-tariff agreements, however, would open the

market to suppliers who did not meet EU standards.

“If the government wanted to dispute any of the

interpretations of WTO regulations, it could be a long,

drawn out process and could risk tit-for-tat challenges

against our exports,” says Simon.

In Britain, we generally have higher production costs

than countries that have more land and than those that

impose fewer restraints on environmental degradation.

Restrictions to production systems might improve food

quality and have environmental benefits, but they also add

additional costs to production.

All the UK’s trade arrangements are currently defined

by the EU. Initially, when the UK leaves the EU, these

will pass into UK law with the same tariffs that the EU

imposes.This will increase most food prices – as many

products are currently imported from the EU with

no tariff. If the government then applies a unilateral

reduction to tariffs, food costs would go down, but it

would make it easier for other countries with lower

standards to supply the UK and it would be difficult to

exclude them.


Savills head of Food and Farming, Andrew Wraith, says

there’s little that farmers can do to directly address the

trade issue at present and in reality the full complexity of

tariffs, how they affect trade and their impact on farms,

are little understood by most producers.

However, he says that farmers who make sure they

understand their local market and make themselves as

lean and agile as possible will be on the front foot when

the cloud of uncertainty clears.

“The UK market could be very attractive for the rest

of the world depending on the trade deals struck.The

protection we currently enjoy on an EU scale won’t

necessarily remain in place. Conversely, other market

opportunities may well emerge,” says Andrew.

“If your product needs to become cheaper to either

export it or to combat imports, how are you going to

make that happen?”

Understanding the limiting factors of a farm business

and working with others could help producers to make

marginal gains. “There could be a new emphasis on

co-operation and joint ventures through the production

chain to hammer down costs,” Andrew suggests.

Another way UK farms traditionally add value to

their produce is by creating a premium product.This is

something that Andrew advises farmers to look into,

although he acknowledges that it is not straightforward

and easier to achieve in some sectors than others.


Ian Bailey, London, 020 7299 3099,


Andrew Wraith, Lincoln, 01522 508 973,




Trade terms: UK tariffs would

raise the price of most goods for

farmers and consumers. Reduction or

removal of these tariffs – or free trade

agreements – might expose the UK

to lower cost producers. EU tariffs on

UK exports would make UK export

prices lower.


Consumer acceptance: shoppers

must be aware of different production

systems. Food might be imported,

subject to WTO restrictions,

from countries that allow genetic

modification, use growth hormones or

wash chicken in chlorine, for example.


Level playing field: farmers in the

UK will want access to the same

technological opportunities and be

subject to the same standards as

their competitors.

ABOVE RIGHT The WTO headquarters in

Geneva, Switzerland. RIGHT Regulations

controlling production standards could

all be changed post Brexit