No deal challenges for UK horticulture

With the Brexit clock ticking, AHDB’s latest Horizon report presents new insight into the potential impacts on the UK’s trade in agricultural and horticultural goods.

'Brexit prospects for UK horticulture trade' examines in detail how both an orderly withdrawal and a no-deal scenario will affect trade across horticulture.

A full report, ‘Brexit perspectives for UK agri-food trade’ has been produced, with a series of additional ‘bite-size’ versions for dairy, beef and lamb, pork, cereals and oilseeds, and potatoes.

Using the latest data, the full report looks at the current trade situation, potential tariff levels and the size of the domestic production base to reveal a complex picture for UK agriculture and horticulture after Brexit. It provides ready comparisons between sectors in terms of imports and exports, self-sufficiency and tariff levels.

UK exports of agricultural and horticultural products are likely to be rendered uncompetitive if World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs come into play on our exports to the EU. By plotting the value share of particular food products in imports and exports markets against its ad valorem tariff, the report visualises which goods would be most affected by the imposition of WTO rules if the UK defaults to no-deal.

In addition, if the Government decides to drop all tariffs on imports from the EU this would have to apply to the rest of the world, meaning UK products could face increased competition on the domestic market. In many sectors, UK costs of production are high when compared with those of key international competitors. No deal could mean the loss of tariff barrier protection and more competition from global producers.

Impact on Horticulture
For horticulture, the UK is heavily reliant on imported fresh produce so import tariffs would make these more expensive. In addition, tariffs on inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides would increase costs of production for growers. If there are no import tariffs, this could open the door for increased volumes of imports, increasing competition and possibly lowering phytosanitary standards. Growers would be unable to respond to any opportunity created for import substitution if import tariffs are put in place due to the critical shortage of competent seasonal labour in the UK.

AHDB Senior Analyst and report co-author Amandeep Kaur Purewal said: “The prospect of a no-deal scenario cannot be ignored. This would have a seismic impact on UK trade in agricultural and horticultural products, with major implications for the farming sectors.

“It is crucial farmers and policy makers fully understand the potential consequences of leaving the EU, whether in an orderly or disorderly manner, if we are to avoid massive disruption throughout the industry.

“We are working to raise awareness of those potential impacts, through reports like this, and our online Brexit hub. More specifically, we are exploring ways to help growers cope with less labour, to ensure continued access to plant protection products and to bolster the domestic market, as well as further work to open new markets abroad for UK produce.”

For all Brexit news, information and analysis, including the potential impacts of various scenarios on farm business incomes, go to

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